How To Get Financial Aid For College When Your Parents “Make Too Much”January 24, 2022
Updated July 20, 2022
If your parents make a good amount of money, you may feel stuck in a difficult situation when you start exploring opportunities for higher education. You may wonder if you can still get financial aid if your parents make too much. Many people fear they’re too rich for financial aid and too poor for college and worry about whether their parents’ wealth will affect the amount of financial aid for which they are eligible.
The good news is, financial aid may be more readily available than you thought. Even if your family’s income is at the upper end of the ladder, you shouldn’t assume that no funds are available to help you pay for college.
Instead, you should explore all your options for how to maximize your financial aid for college if your parents make too much so you can make sure you’re tapping all the sources of cash available to you.
This guide can help you figure out what sources of aid you may be eligible for, as well as what to do when parents make too much for need-based financial aid.
You Should Still Submit the FAFSA
If you are trying to figure out how to get financial aid for college when your parents make too much, the first thing to be aware of is that it’s still important to submit the FAFSA.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is available through the Department of Education. It provides the opportunity to send your relevant financial information to schools you’re interested in attending so they can determine the financial aid for which you may be eligible.
Information you provide on the FAFSA is used to determine if you qualify for federal student loans, but also for other sources of aid. This can include state-specific loans, scholarships, or financial assistance offered by your school. So even if you aren’t eligible for need-based aid or other financial aid based on your parents’ income, you may still gain access to loans and grants simply by filling out this document.
In fact, the Department of Education has made clear there are no upper-income limits for financial aid. And most schools emphasize that parental income isn’t the only factor considered when determining who may be eligible for assistance. Just be sure to apply for financial aid early so you can be eligible for assistance that’s distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Learn more about Unsubsidized vs. Subsidized Student Loans to better understand the different kinds of financial aid that you may gain access to.
How Your Parents’ Income Affects Financial Aid Eligibility & Awards
Getting financial aid if parents make too much may be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. The biggest reason financial aid is partly based on your parents’ income is that parental income can impact a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Your Expected Family Contribution (changing to Student Aid Index effective July 1, 2023) is the amount the Department of Education determines you and your family are likely to pay towards your schooling. The Department of Education’s formula subtracts your EFC from the school’s Cost of Attendance to determine your financial need.
Because financial aid is partly based on your parents’ income, if your parents’ income is very high, your expected family contribution may be large enough that you don’t qualify for any need-based help.
It’s also worth noting that your parents’ income doesn’t count in determining your EFC under certain circumstances. For example, your parents’ finances aren’t considered if you meet any of the following criteria when you complete your FAFSA:
- You are currently serving in the U.S. military
- You are a military veteran
- You will be 24 or over by January 1 of the school year when you’re applying for financial aid
- You’re married or separated but not divorced
- You’re working towards a master’s or doctorate
- You have children of your own or other dependents and provide more than half their support
- Both of your parents are deceased
- You were in foster care or a dependent of the court from age 13 or above
- You are an emancipated minor
- The court has declared you are in a legal guardianship
- You are a self-supporting or homeless unaccompanied youth or are at risk of homelessness.
Learn More: Financial Aid for Adopted & Foster Care Students
Appealing a Financial Aid Decision to Ask for More Aid
Figuring out how to get more financial aid for college when parents make too much is a process called professional judgment. Sometimes the FAFSA doesn’t tell the whole story of your family’s circumstances.
If you find you aren’t awarded financial aid you need to attend school, you can appeal that decision. However, you will have to prove special circumstances apply that make it more difficult than expected to pay for school. Common examples of special circumstances include:
- A job loss or other loss of income
- Parental separation or divorce
- The death of a parent
- Special needs siblings or family members
- High medical or dental expenses that were not reimbursed
- Catastrophic financial loss caused by financial disaster
- A change in your marital status
Act quickly to submit your appeal to have the best chance of being awarded the funds you need if these or other special circumstances apply.
Learn More: What to Do When Your Parents Can’t Afford to Pay for College
Apply for Scholarships & Grants
While you may not be awarded need-based financial aid if your parents make too much, there are many scholarships and grants that could be available. This includes merit-based scholarships or scholarships based on your involvement with particular activities or your interest in pursuing a specific field of study.
Merit-based scholarships may be based on things like:
- Your academic standing
- Athletic talent
- Performing arts talent, like choir or marching band
- Community service
- Your extracurricular activities
Scholarships and grants usually don’t have to be paid back, unlike loans, and they can help reduce the amount you must borrow. The sooner you begin exploring options for them, the better the chances you can find free money for school.
- How to Get a Scholarship
- Scholarships for Black & African American Students
- Scholarships for Latinx & Hispanic Students
- Scholarships for Women
- Scholarships for Pharmacists
Student Loans for Parents
If you’re a parent who wants to help your child pay for college, the good news is that there are student loans available. They can be a great option in situations where parents make too much for their kids to qualify for need-based financial aid. A high income helps ensure monthly payments are affordable and can be helpful in qualifying for the most competitive rates on certain loans.
Parent loans are available from both the Department of Education and private student lenders. Loans from the DOE are called Parent PLUS Loans. Private student loans for parents can be obtained from many different lenders. And parents have the option to refinance parent loans later, either to lower their rate or to transfer student loans to their child.
Private Student Loans
Private student loans are available to students as well as to parents. When it comes to private loans, a high parental income can actually be a good thing because parents can cosign student loans and help students qualify for a competitive rate.
Like private loans for parents, private loans that students take out can be refinanced later. Private student loan refinancing helps to make payoff cheaper and easier by allowing students to reduce their interest rate after borrowing.
Other Options That Can Help You Pay for College or Save Money
For students worried about how to get financial aid for college when parents make too much, there are plenty of options besides loans, grants, and scholarships to help reduce the cost of earning an education and make getting a degree more affordable.
Some of the best options include:
- Taking on part-time jobs to avoid student loan debt
- Taking AP classes to get a head start on earning college credits and reduce the time it takes to earn a degree
- Taking advantage of tuition reimbursement offered by employers
- Asking family members for help
Apply for Private or Parent Student Loans Today With ELFI
ELFI offers private student loans, student loans for parents, and graduate student loans.* These private loans are ideal for those worried about how to get financial aid when parents make too much money. Loans come with a choice of a fixed or variable interest rate and rates are competitive.
ELFI also offers other benefits, including flexible repayment options that allow you to choose when and how to repay your debt. And there are no prepayment penalties, which enables paying off student loans early if desired. There are also no application fees or origination fees, which makes borrowing more affordable.
If you’re not sure where to start, an ELFI personal student loan advisor can help walk you through the process so you can find the right way to pay for school regardless of your parents’ income or your access to federal financial aid.