FAFSA Income Limits: How Much Income Is Too Much?

There are no FAFSA income limits that disqualify students from applying for federal aid. Learn what contributes to your expected family contribution.
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  • There are no income limits to apply for the FAFSA.
  • The FAFSA uses several factors to calculate your expected family contribution (EFC).
  • You could qualify for maximum financial aid if you or your parents make less than $27,000.
  • A student can make up to $7,040 before it affects their FAFSA.
  • Explore multiple ways to pay for college beyond federal student aid.

If you think you or your parents make too much to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you're wrong. There are no income limits on the FAFSA.

Instead, your eligibility for federal student aid depends on how much your college costs and what your family should contribute. Learn how your FAFSA eligibility is calculated and other ways to pay for college if you don't qualify for federal student aid.

What Is the Maximum Income to Qualify for the FAFSA?

The U.S. Department of Education offers need-based federal financial aid packages to eligible students. To qualify, you must fill out the FAFSA.

However, the eligibility process doesn't include a strict cutoff for FAFSA income limits. Instead, the application considers many factors in determining how much aid you'll receive and what your expected family contribution (EFC) is.

What Is EFC?

Here are the primary categories used to calculate your expected family contribution:

  • Untaxed income
  • Assets
  • Benefits, such as Social Security or unemployment

It's possible to qualify for an automatic zero EFC calculation, which would get you the most aid possible. The FAFSA income limit for this situation in the 2022-23 school year is $27,000 in adjusted gross income.

What Is COA?

Your cost of attendance (COA) is the sum of:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Books, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs

Your EFC is then subtracted from your COA to determine your FAFSA qualifications. You could qualify for different types of aid to cover the outstanding costs, such as grants, subsidized loans, and work-study jobs.

How to Pay for College Without Financial Aid

If you don't qualify for federal financial aid, consider these six alternatives to pay for college that don't rely on FAFSA qualifications or income.

Institutional Scholarships

In addition to federal need-based scholarships, many colleges and universities use endowment money to offer merit-based scholarships to entice students to attend. Research scholarship programs at your accepted schools to see if you're eligible to apply based on your academic or extracurricular achievements.

Some institutions may also offer need-based scholarships using information from your FAFSA.

Private Scholarships

Look beyond your college for scholarships to raise even more money for your education. Even when you receive federal financial aid, private scholarships can help cover your expected family contribution.

Talk to your high school guidance counselor to get advice on identifying eligible opportunities. Also, search online for programs that can help you pay for college beyond your financial aid package.

Some private companies and organizations offer scholarships based on your demographic, such as LGBTQ+ scholarships and scholarships for Black and African American students.

Private Grants

Like a scholarship, a private grant offers you cash to pay for your education without having to pay back the funds. Grants are based on financial need rather than specific achievements. However, there may still be specific qualifications you must meet. For instance, you might discover grants for single mothers or low-income students.

To get started, take a look at state grants first. There may be programs available that are awarded separately from federal grants. Many private organizations, such as nonprofits, also offer grant programs that you can qualify for. Some may be a one-time award, while others may renew each year you're in school.

Private Student Loans

Federal and private student loans have different features, but utilizing both could help with college affordability. A private student loan goes through a private bank, credit union, or other lenders. If you don't qualify for federal aid or simply need some extra cash to cover your costs, a private loan could help.

Just pay attention to the terms of your loan agreement. You may need a student loan cosigner, like a parent or relative, with an established credit history and consistent income. Additionally, check whether your interest rate is fixed or variable. If it's variable, your loan balance can increase as rates rise.

Employer Tuition Reimbursement

Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for employees or their children. Whether you're working full-time or have a parent with this benefit at work, it could be a helpful way to contribute to college costs. Some companies have stricter requirements, like only paying for programs that are related to that person's job. But if you're an adult going back to school, this is a great option for free money.

Advanced Placement Classes

Students who are still in high school could consider taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes to reduce the length of time they spend in college (and the cost). Most high schools offer several different classes, such as English, U.S. History, Calculus, or Psychology.

The coursework is rigorous, but scoring well on the national exam could earn you college credits. Check with the school you plan to attend to find out what AP courses they accept and what exam score you'll need to earn. You could potentially shave off a semester of your degree program.

Community College

Attending community college for the first two years is another way to lower college costs regardless of your financial aid package. The average cost for one year at community college was just $3,900 in 2020-21, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. After two years, you can transfer from community college to a university. Some state colleges and community colleges even offer a transfer track.

Frequently Asked Questions About FAFSA Income Limits

What is the maximum income to qualify for FAFSA?

There are no FAFSA qualification requirements surrounding income. However, there is an income limit if you hope to qualify for an automatic zero expected family contribution, which is an adjusted gross income of $27,000.

What is the income limit for FAFSA 2022?

In 2022, the income limit for an automatic zero expected family contribution is $27,000. But this is based on the previous tax year, which would be 2021. There is no income limit for submitting the FAFSA.

Can you get financial aid if your parents make $100,000?

You could receive financial aid, even if your parents make $100,000. The calculation considers other factors in addition to income, such as the size of your family, other family members in school, and the cost of attendance.

How much can a dependent student earn before affecting FAFSA?

Students with a part-time job may have their income included in the FAFSA calculation, but only if it exceeds a certain amount. The FAFSA student income allowance is $7,040.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.