If a child does not qualify for the free or reduced-price school
lunch program, can they still qualify for federal student aid?
Yes. Students who don't qualify for the free or reduced-price school
lunch program can still qualify for federal student aid and should
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submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA added a question about the free or reduced-price school
lunch program in 2007-08 because of changes enacted by the Higher
Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171). These changes
made it easier
for families that qualify for certain means-tested
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federal benefit programs to qualify for federal student aid by
providing another option for qualifying for aid. Thus the question was
added to help more families qualify for aid and not to exclude any
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If the income of a dependent student's parents is less than $50,000
and the family qualified for a means-tested federal benefit program,
the simplified needs test will cause assets to be disregarded on the
FAFSA. If the parents' income is less than $31,000 and the family
qualified for a means-tested federal benefit program, the expected
family contribution (EFC) will be automatically set to zero and the
student will qualify for a full Pell Grant. The means-tested federal
benefit programs include SSI, food stamps, free or reduced-price
school lunch, TANF and WIC.
But you can still receive federal student aid even if you don't
qualify for the free and reduced-price school lunch program. More than
four-fifths (82.7%) of Pell Grant recipients in 2007-08 did not
indicate on the FAFSA that a family member had participated in the
free or reduced-price school lunch program.
The free and reduced-price school lunch program has two eligibility
cutoffs based on the poverty line. Children from families with income
less than or equal to 130% of the poverty line are eligible for free
meals, while children from families with income between 130% and 185%
of the poverty line are eligible for reduced-price meals. One must
also be enrolled at a participating school. (185% of the
poverty line is about $41,000 for a family of four in 2011.)