College Myth: Financial Aid is Only for Poor Students

Many students from middle class and upper middle class families assume they won’t receive any need-based financial aid. This isn’t necessarily the case.

Need-based financial aid

Colleges and the government decide how much need-based financial aid you’re eligible for by subtracting your expected family contribution (EFC) from your college’s cost of attendance. If there’s a disparity there, you may be awarded need-based aid.

Even students who consider themselves upper middle class sometimes receive need-based financial aid. In 2012, 59% of undergraduate students received some form of grant aid, including 22 percent of students whose families were in the top 25% of household incomes.

Charts showing that more than 50% of college students receive some form of gift aid, including federal and institutional grants and scholarships

Government financial aid

It’s true that grants from the federal government (including Pell Grants) are reserved for lower income students. But middle class and upper middle class students may still qualify for institutional grants and scholarships, plus they will likely receive extra help paying for college by way of low-interest rate loans from the federal government.

Merit aid and college scholarships

Merit-based aid is also available to students of all incomes. These scholarships are most often awarded by a student’s college for high standardized test scores, GPA, or special talent. More selective colleges generally offer less merit-based aid, but there are hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the country that offer students of all levels merit-based aid.

{image: show some merit scholarships from college websites.}

Nearly everyone finds it hard to pay for college–and that’s why it’s so common to receive financial aid. If you feel like you could use financial aid, submit the FAFSA. Don’t assume that you won’t qualify because you think your family makes too much money. There’s a good chance that you will be surprised and actually qualify for some form of aid.



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