There is no exact income level required for eligibility for state, federal or private grants and scholarships, but there are a few guidelines to help students anticipate what types of aid to expect.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the centralized application for all federal and some state aid programs. The FAFSA contains questions mostly relating to taxes, assets, dependents and savings for the student and parents. Upon completion of the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report containing, among other things, your expected family contribution.


A student’s expected family contribution (EFC) determines her eligibility for need-based grants. The total family income, assets, tax information and certain other factors determine this number. The cost of attendance subtracted by the EFC is the student’s financial need.

Pell Grants

Recipients of the most popular federal grant program, Pell Grants, typically have a family income of $20,000 or less, though students with a family income of up to $50,000 may be eligible. Pell Grant eligibility is a requirement for several other federal grants.


One of the largest considerations in determining eligibility for need-based grants (like the Pell Grant) is whether the student has sibling in college. A student’s expected family contribution is cut in half for every sibling in college.


Many grants have no income requirements at all, but requirements regarding a student's situation, background or academic interests. These include merit-based grants and scholarships, professional grants and entitlement grants. You may be automatically considered for some of these grants when you complete a FAFSA, while others require a separate application.

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