Thats a good question and I am not sure of the best way. What I do know is that the current system does not work well for everyone. Often times, students cannot get enough Stafford Loans to cover tuition (especially not enough subsidized). Why is parent's income counted as a determining factor for loans and grants?... not all parents pay for college for their child.
Aid is essentially determined by factors related to age, marital status, undergraduate degree, veteran, have children, foster care, legal guardianship, etc. An example of why this does not work:
Jenny is 21 and has a child. Her parents make over 1 million dollars per year and they pay for all of Jenny's needs; Jenny does not work and attends school full time. Jenny will likely get a Pell grant and can get the maximum amounts for Stafford Loans.
Susan is 21 and lives on her own. She holds down 2 jobs (making on average $7/hr) and goes to school full time. She is independent of her parents, pays her own bills, lives on her own, and does not rely on her parents in an way. Susan's parent's make about $70,000/yr and Susan herself only makes about $7,000/yr. Susan will probably not qualify for a Pell Grant and she will likely be limited on the subsidized loans she can get.
Sure does not sound fair to me.
-thats how it makes me feel sometimes.
Of course all of this does not take into account the rising costs of college; our inability to meet demand in certain career fields; and the fact that student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt (and the economy is bad and student loans follow you though bankruptcy, etc, etc)... all related to student aid.