Unlike a student loan, a federal Pell Grant for college does not have to be repaid.
A Pell Grant is a need–based grant that is provided to low-income students.
Pell Grant award amounts change every year, but the amount you can receive will depend on several factors including your financial need and the cost of attending your school.
Pell Grants are usually only awarded to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s degree or a professional degree. But they can be awarded to some students enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program as well.
If you or your child needs financial aid to help pay for college, here are some important things you need to know about eligibility requirements and qualifying for the federal Pell Grant:
Qualifying for a Pell Grant
You are ineligible for a Pell Grant if:
- You are incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution
- You are subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a forcible or non-forcible sexual offense
- You have already earned a bachelor’s degree or a professional degree
- You have already received a federal Pell Grant for 12 semesters or the equivalent. (You will receive a note if you are getting close to this limit. This change was effective as of July 1, 2012).
- You are already receiving federal Pell Grant funds from another school
If none of the above scenarios describe you, and you are a low-income student, then you could be eligible for a federal Pell Grant.
Schools receive a set amount of funds directly from the U.S. Department of Education to provide students with federal Pell Grants each year. Generally speaking, Pell Grants are awarded to the most financially needy students. You can still qualify for a Pell Grant if you are receiving any other types of student aid.
Receiving a Federal Pell Grant
For the 2012-2013 award year, the maximum Federal Pell Grant award amount is $5,550. The amount you actually end up receiving could be less because the U.S. Department of Education will take the following into account:
- Your financial need, which is the difference between your Cost of Attendance (COA) and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
- Your actual cost of attendance
- Whether you are a part-time or full-time student
- Your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less
If you are awarded a federal Pell Grant, your school will be able to apply that grant to cover your school costs, pay you directly, or a combination of the two.
Your school will apply the grant towards tuition, fees, and room and board. After that, any leftover funds can be sent to you via check, a cash payment, a credit card, bank deposit, or another preferred method.