Federal Student Aid Eligibility Requirements

Although the FAFSA requirements in the U.S. are long and complex, you can fulfill them easily with the right amount of preparation.

The basic premise of FAFSA is that it was designed to help Americans pay for their higher education costs. Attending colleges and universities is an excellent way for students to get a head start into their next career, with degrees opening career paths that they would not otherwise be able to attain. However, they are also more expensive each year, with the costs of tuition only going upwards. In this light, the FAFSA qualifications were invented to provide a certain amount of relief to

You may be able to get FAFSA, but only if you qualify under one of their many different eligibility requirements. For example, the FAFSA income limits are extremely noteworthy, due to the limitations that they put on the families of students. If your family makes over a certain amount of money each year, you are less likely to receive a large amount of financial aid from the government. There are also plenty of other eligibility factors to consider, as outlined below.

Who sets the FAFSA requirements?

While FAFSA eligibility is a crucial topic for students who need help paying for their undergraduate or graduate school costs, understanding where it comes from can help you to get a better picture of the program as a whole. FAFSA is short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is a government aid program ran by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Broadly, the ED sets up FAFSA rules, and each individual university across the country enforces those rules. This government agency is responsible not only for reviewing and accepting millions of students to receive different loans, grants and work-study programs every year, but they are also the ones that can change the restrictions for these programs based on the changing economy.

The FAFSA income guidelines, in particular, are constantly changing thanks to the rising costs of education. Each year, the ED collects thousands of samples of university tuition rates and compares them with the average annual household income of Americans. By comparing these two numbers, they can decide how much the average student’s family will be able to cover of their education costs, and how much financial aid they may be able to get. Therefore, making sure that you are referencing the most up-to-date numbers in your eligibility search is critical. These numbers change frequently, so a student that qualifies for one FAFSA award amount in 2018 may not necessarily qualify for that same amount in 2019.

Education-Based FAFSA Qualifications

To establish who qualifies for FAFSA, you will first need to look at the individual aspects of the program that you must meet. For starters, FAFSA is designed only for those who meet a certain level of education, and who can demonstrate a set level of proficiency. This means that in order to qualify for basic FAFSA, you must have done one of the following:

  • Received a high school diploma
  • Received a General Education Development (GED) certificate
  • Received an approved home-schooling certificate
  • Passed an approved “ability to benefit” exam, or have completed six credit hours of college coursework if first enrolled in college before July 1, 2012

In addition, there are FAFSA GPA requirements that you must meet in order to maintain your financial aid while you are in college or university. This is known as Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), which is measured in order to ensure that those who are accepting financial aid are using it to the best of their abilities.

Related Article: FAFSA Deadlines

You must maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale, you must be on track to complete your bachelor’s degree within six years or associate’s degree within three years, and you must pass no less than two-thirds of your attempted credits each semester. If any of these SAP factors fall short, you may temporarily lost your eligibility for financial aid.

FAFSA Income Guidelines for Students & Their Parents

Next, your FAFSA income requirements will be carefully considered before you can gain eligibility for the program. This involves looking at your family household income, as well as your dependency status. If your Cost of Attendance (COA) subtracted by your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is above a certain limit that changes each year, you may be unable to receive a majority of FAFSA aid. This is due to the fact that only those with a demonstrated financial need can be eligible for most types of financial aid.

In addition, your FAFSA assets will be counted as a part of your finances, in addition to the income that you or your parents make every year. These include your family’s cars, jewelry and other non-cash items, investments, academic scholarships and more. However, it is also important to remember that while most FAFSA benefits are need-based, there are some loans, grants and work-study programs that are non-need-based. You may qualify for one of these benefits, even if your annual household income is relatively high.

Additional FAFSA Eligibility for Special Cases

While the above FAFSA guidelines apply to all Americans equally, there are sometimes extenuating circumstances that can allow students to be eligible for special coverage through the ED. This includes eligibility for the program based on:

  • Citizenship. You may only qualify for this financial aid if you are a U.S. citizen with a Social Security Card, or if you meet one of the following non-citizen FAFSA requirements:
    • Have a Green Card as a permanent legal resident.
    • Have a T-Visa or refugee/asylum papers.
    • Have papers proving that you are a “battered immigrant-qualified alien.”
  • Disability. If you have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability, you may be eligible for specialized grants and work-study programs that accommodate your disability.
  • Age. While there is no FAFSA age limit in place for who can receive coverage, you may be eligible for different types of loans and grants depending on whether you are older than 18 years of age and are considered a dependent.
  • Family Service. Special FAFSA grants may be offered to students whose parents were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.

You can also become ineligible for aid if you are incarcerated, you have a civil commitment after incarceration, you are in default for not paying off your loans or you do not maintain the proper academic standing for your program, among other reasons. While answering the question “What do I need for FAFSA?” never has a universal answer, preparing for these aforementioned restrictions can allow you to know what the ED will be looking for in your application.

Related Article: FAFSA Information for Graduate and Professional Students

It might also interest you: