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Resources > FAFSA > Average FAFSA Aid by Income—A Detailed Guide

Average FAFSA Aid by Income—A Detailed Guide

Whether you’ll get financial aid after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) depends on how early you apply and what information you put on the form. Still, one of the main factors that impact the size of the financial aid package you may receive is the amount of reportable income and assets you and your family have. The lower your reportable income, the more financial aid you’re eligible to get.

In this guide, we’ll reveal the average FAFSA aid by income, explain how financial aid is calculated, and present aid options that are based on income as well as those with no income limits.

How Is Financial Aid Calculated?

On the FAFSA, you’ll find various financial questions that should help determine how much aid you’re eligible for based on your financial need. These questions are typically related to information like reportable income, untaxed income, and the net worth of your family’s investments. FAFSA uses the answers to these questions to calculate your Student Aid Index (SAI) (formerly known as EFC), which helps determine the amount of federal student aid you’ll receive if you attend your chosen college. The lower your SAI is, the more financial aid you’ll likely get.

Besides SAI, the Cost of Attendance (COA) is another important factor for calculating how much financial aid you can qualify for. COA determines the amount it costs you to attend college, and it includes your: 

  • Estimated tuition
  • Fees
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Supplies

COA is calculated by your school or college, and you can usually find it on the institution’s financial aid website.

The college you plan to attend will calculate your financial aid eligibility by subtracting your SAI from the COA. For example, if your COA is $16,000 and your SAI is 12,000, your financial need will be $4,000. 

As for non-need-based aid, this isn’t calculated using your SAI. Instead, the FAFSA considers your COA and the portion of your college expenses covered by grants and other need-based aid. So, if your COA is $16,000 and your grants or scholarships cover $4,000, you may receive up to $12,000 in non-need-based aid.

What Is the Average FAFSA Aid by Income?

Besides factors like your or your parents’ income, assets, and COA, the amount of financial aid you can get also depends on your family size. This means that the financial aid amount varies from one applicant to the other, even if both applicants or their parents’ yearly income is the same. 

Typically, students from lower-income families are eligible for more financial aid, while those from higher-income families may get less aid or only qualify for loans. Still, learning about the average FAFSA aid by income can give you a rough idea of how much aid you’ll get based on your family’s annual income. Here’s the average grant and scholarship aid awarded in the 2020–21 academic year:

Income LevelFour-Year Public SchoolTwo-Year Public SchoolFour-Year Private Non-Profit SchoolTwo-Year Private Non-ProfitSchoolFour-Year Private For-Profit SchoolTwo-Year Private For-Profit School
$0 to $30,000$13,190$7,980$30,130$7,340$7,830$5,530
$30,001 to $48,000$12,680$7,340$33,570$8,820$8,490$5,070
$48,001 to $75,000$9,540$4,900$32,090$9,980$7,400$3,580
$75,001 to $110,000$5,440$2,210$28,480$11,020$6,400$1,410
$110,001 or more$3,280$1,250$23,970$13,780$7,500$610

How To Predict the Amount of Financial Aid You’ll Get

While it’s difficult to predict the exact amount of financial aid you’ll get, there are a few actions you can take to come closer to the answer. You can:

  1. Check your dependency status
  2. Calculate your school’s net price
  3. Determine your SAI

Check Your Dependency Status

Your dependency status on the FAFSA can help you get an idea of how much financial aid you can receive. If you’re an independent student, you don’t have to include your parents’ income and assets on the application, which can help you qualify for more need-based aid. You’ll also have higher loan limits for unsubsidized loans when you become an undergraduate.

You’re considered an independent student for FAFSA purposes in 2024–25 if you’re:

  • Born before January 1, 2001
  • Married and not separated
  • A graduate or professional student
  • A member of the U.S. armed forces or a veteran
  • An orphan or in foster care
  • A ward of the court
  • In a legal guardianship (or you were in the past)
  • Someone with legal dependents besides a spouse
  • An emancipated minor
  • An unaccompanied/homeless person or at risk of becoming homeless

If none of this applies to you, you’re a dependent student and you must include your parents’ information on the FAFSA, which means their income and assets will impact your financial aid.

Calculate Your School’s Net Price

The average college tuition and fees in the 2023–24 academic year were $10,662 at public in-state colleges, $23,630 at public out-of-state colleges, and $42,162 at private colleges. While these are rather high prices, most students don’t fully pay for their college education out of pocket since a significant portion of education-related costs is covered by grants and scholarships.

For this reason, you can get closer to the financial aid amount you may receive by calculating your school’s net price. Most colleges have a net price calculator on their website, and you can find it by searching for your school using the Net Price Calculator Center. Once you find your school, you’ll have to enter information like:

The calculator will then provide an estimate of the aid you’ll receive through grants.

You may be able to secure even more aid if you qualify for merit-based aid, or you could receive additional grants if your financial situation changes and you appeal for more aid after submitting the FAFSA.

Determine Your SAI

Predicting how high your SAI might be is the best way to gain insight into how much financial aid you’ll get. When you submit the FAFSA, the federal government will send your official SAI as part of your Student Aid Report (SAR).

While SAI is determined based on several financial factors, some of your or your family’s assets and income are excluded from the calculation. For example, you must report your parents’ investments on the FAFSA if you’re a dependent student, but investments like the value of your family home or your parents’ retirement accounts won’t be counted in the SAI.

Based on the information that’s considered for your SAI, you can use the Federal Student Aid Estimator tool to get a general idea of the federal financial aid you’re eligible to receive. When completing the estimator, you need to answer questions related to:

  1. Your financial and personal information
  2. Your parents’ financial information if you’re a dependent student
  3. Your spouse’s financial information if you’re married

The process generally takes 5–10 minutes, and you can either complete it yourself or have your parents do it for you if you’re not sure about your parents’ income information. 

Which Financial Aid Options Are Based on Income?

While FAFSA doesn’t include income limits, certain federal aid is reserved for students from low-income families. For this type of aid, your family’s income is the determining factor for whether you qualify. The income-based financial aid options include:

  1. Pell Grants
  2. State aid
  3. Direct subsidized loans
  4. Work-study

Pell Grants

The maximum Pell Grant amount for the 2024–25 award year is $7,395. Although these grants don’t impose any income limits, they’re only awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need. The amount you’ll get from a Pell Grant depends on:

  • Your SAI
  • The cost of attendance at your school/college
  • Your status as a full-time/part-time student
  • Your school attendance plans (whether you plan to attend school for a full academic year or less)

State Aid

Many states offer financial aid in the form of grants or scholarships to their residents to help them reduce the cost of education, and most of them require you to fill out the FAFSA to apply. Some state aid programs work on a first-come-first-served basis, so you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible to increase your chances of qualifying for aid. Two examples of state aid are:

  1. Cal Grant—This is the financial aid for students attending the University of California, California State University, California Community College, or other approved schools based in California. A Cal Grant doesn’t have to be paid back, and you must demonstrate a certain level of financial need to get it
  2. New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)—This grant is reserved for New York residents to help them pay tuition at qualifying schools in New York. Annual TAP awards can be up to $5,665, and they don’t have to be paid back

Direct Subsidized Loans

Direct subsidized loans are federal loans provided to undergraduate students with financial aid. The amount you can borrow is determined by your school and can’t exceed your financial need.

The interest on this loan is covered by the U.S. Department of Education while you’re in school, during the loan’s grace period, and during the period of deferment. The aggregate loan limit for direct subsidized loans is up to $23,000 if you’re a dependent student.

Work-Study

Federal work-study programs are designed for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. They allow you to earn money to pay for your college expenses through part-time jobs. The available jobs are typically related to your course of study or community service.

While you can’t know exactly how much money you’ll make in a work-study program, you’ll earn at least the current federal minimum wage. You can also earn more depending on the type of job you get, but your total work-study award will also depend on:

  • The time you apply
  • The level of your financial need
  • Your school’s funding

Other Financial Aid Options

If you don’t qualify for need-based financial aid, you can still explore other financial aid options that don’t include financial standing as part of their eligibility requirements. These include:

  1. Direct unsubsidized loans—These loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students who need help paying for college, and they don’t require you to demonstrate financial needs to qualify. However, you have to pay interest on these loans both while attending school and during the period of deferment
  2. Scholarships—Scholarships are usually awarded by the state, colleges, nonprofit organizations, or corporations, and your eligibility is based on your achievements instead of financial needs
  3. Direct PLUS loansGrad PLUS and Parent PLUS loans allow you or your parent to borrow money and pay for college education, and they don’t include an income limit to qualify

Some types of loans—like Direct PLUS loans and private loans—consider your credit score to determine if you qualify for financial aid. If your credit history doesn’t meet the lender’s standards, you may not be approved for a loan. This is why building a good credit score from an early age is important—it can help you secure more loan options and obtain loans with favorable interest rates.

The best way to start building your credit as a minor or young adult is to rely on services like FreeKick. This platform allows children as young as 13 to establish a strong credit score with the help of their parents.

FreeKick—Premium Credit Building and ID Protection

FreeKick is an FDIC-insured deposit account and a subscription service provided by Austin Capital Bank that offers parent-sponsored credit building services to young adults and minors between the ages of 13 and 25. The platform also provides comprehensive identity monitoring and protection services for the whole family of up to two adult parents and six children.

Start Building Credit Early With FreeKick

Getting an early start at credit building can help you potentially save over $200,000 throughout your lifetime as it increases your chances of securing loans with favorable terms and interest rates. This makes it easier to:

  • Get rental housing
  • Obtain financing for a car or a credit card
  • Find a better job

FreeKick allows you to establish a strong credit score from the age of 13 through its parent-sponsored credit building service. Here’s how to get started: 

  1. Create an Account—With your parents’ help, visit FreeKick.bank and choose a plan that best fits your family’s needs and budget
  2. Set It and Forget It—When the account is activated, FreeKick automatically starts building your credit over the next 12-month period
  3. Keep Growing—After the first 12 months end, your parents can either renew the account and keep building credit or close it and get a refund of your initial deposit

Keep Your Identity Protected With FreeKick

Recent data shows that a child’s identity is stolen every 30 seconds, and college students are one of the groups most often targeted by identity criminals. 

If you don’t protect your personal information, you risk losing the chance to get financial aid. Identity criminals may steal your information and use it to apply for financial aid, making your application invalid. This is why FreeKick offers a comprehensive set of identity monitoring and protection features for both adults and minors. Here’s what the service includes:

Services for Adult Children and ParentsServices for Minor Children
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Lost wallet protection
Court records monitoring
Change of address monitoring
Non-credit (Payday) loan monitoring
Free FICO® Score monthly
FICO® Score factors
Experian credit report monthly
Credit profile monitoring
SSN monitoring
Dark web monitoring for children’s personal information
Up to $1 million identity theft insurance
Full-service white-glove concierge credit restoration
Sex offender monitoring—based on sponsor parent’s address

FreeKick Pricing

FreeKick offers a plan for any family’s needs and budget. Both available plans are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. Find more details in the table below:

FDIC-Insured Deposit AmountPlan Fee
$3,000$0 (Free)
No deposit$149/year

Start your credit building journey early to secure a solid financial foundation and protect yourself from identity theft—sign up for FreeKick today.