I am often asked if there is an income limit for filing the FAFSA. I think what they are really asking, “Is there an income above which nobody qualifies for financial aid?” There is no income limit for filing the FAFSA. This means anyone
at any i
ncome is entitled to submit a FAFSA form to the Department of Education. As to the question, “Is there any absolute maximum income above which you will not receive financial aid?”, the answer really is, it depends.
The FAFSA uses a formula to determine your family contribution. There are so many variables of which income is a very large part. It also takes into account assets, how many children are in the household, and how many children are attending college. If let’s say you have three children in college and you earn $250,000 you will still have a substantial family contribution. The family contribution will be spread across three schools. In this case a family might qualify for aid for all their children. On the other hand a family earning $70,000 with one child in college may not necessarily qualify for aid at certain schools if their family contribution exceeds the cost of attending, for example a community college. It all depends on the financial need of the family. In this case the family earning the higher income may have more need due to the number of children in college.
There are certain government financial aid programs you may not qualify for under either scenario; high or low income. Pell Grants have a specific expected family contribution cutoff. Families not showing financial need are disqualified from subsidized federal loans. This does not however mean that a family will not qualify for other types of aid including grants and scholarships.
As a matter of course I encourage all families to file the FAFSA. The formula can be a bit murky. You may find out that you may qualify for aid even though you think your income is too high. I refer to an earlier blog post “Qualifying for Financial Aid.” Even if your family contribution turns out being higher than the cost of attending, it notifies the financial aid office that you are looking for some type of financial assistance. If your student is especially smart or talented the school may provide you with discounted tuition or other programs that will reduce your cost. The only thing certain in the process is that if you do not file the FAFSA you will definitely not receive any financial aid.