What Is Considered Low Income for Financial Aid?


Government programs that provide financial aid typically require you to meet income limits to qualify. Income limits can vary, depending on the type of aid you are seeking. While certain programs may base eligibility on your ability to meet your expenses, such as federal student aid programs, others do not extend eligibility to individuals or families that exceed specific earnings limits. In addition to income limits, certain aid programs also require you to meet resource limits.

Student Aid

Need-based federal student aid programs, such as the Federal Pell Grant, do not set a specific income limit for you to qualify, but rather determine your eligibility based on your educational costs and your ability to pay colleges expenses. Administrators typically consider your expected family contribution, financial aid from other funding sources, and your cost of attendance to determine if you qualify for a Pell Grant. Cost of attendance can include all of your school-related expenses, such as tuition, housing, textbooks, transportation and school fees.

Housing Assistance

Housing aid programs, such as the Housing Choice Voucher program, also referred to as the Section 8 program, require you to meet income limits to qualify. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sponsors the HCV program, which local housing agencies administer. HUD establishes HCV income limits, which can vary depending on where you live. The HCV program also has different income limits for different household sizes. For example, to qualify for the HCV program administered by the New York City Housing Authority, a household of one person can make no more than $24,800 per year, while a family of four can make up to $35,450, as of September 2011.

Food Stamps

To qualify for food stamps offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, you must meet specific monthly gross and net income limits. Income limits vary depending on household sizes. For example, as of September 2011, a household of one can earn a maximum gross monthly income of $1,174 and a net monthly income of $903. If you have a household of four people, you can earn a gross monthly income of $2,389 and a net monthly income of $1,838. Income limits established by the USDA apply to applicants in the District of Columbia and the 48 U.S. contiguous states. Income limits in Hawaii and Alaska may differ.


If you apply for Medicaid benefits, you must meet income limits. Each state administers its own Medicaid program and income limits vary from state to state. To qualify for Medicaid benefits, you may be required to meet both income and resource limits. For example, the state of New York extends Medicaid eligibility to single individuals in one-person households who earn no more than $8,487 annually, as of September 2011. If you are 65 years of age or older, blind, or disabled, New York requires you to meet income and resource limits. For instance, a 68-year-old New Yorker in a household of four people can qualify for Medicaid if he earns no more than $17,420 per year and has resources that do not exceed $26,130.

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