Can you get more than one Pell Grant per school year? Right now, the answer is still “no,” but if higher education officials still working on some new rules can come to an agreement, the answer may change to “yes.” If that happens, students may become eligible for two Pell Grants in the same school year.

The first couple of eligibility requirements are likely to be:

  • Enrollment in an accredited certificate, associate degree, or bachelor degree program
  • Enrolled at least half-time for more than one academic year, more than two semesters, or the equivalent time during a single award year

What is a “single award year”?

The school year, called an “award year” by the U.S. Department of Education, runs from July 1st through the following June 30th, a little longer than the typical traditional college year of September to May. The award year covers the two traditional college semesters plus summer school.

Some schools, rather than having fall and spring semesters plus summer sessions, may divide their school year into quarters. This type of school year is also covered by the Department of Education award year of July 1st through June 30th.

What’s the part of the new Pell Grant update that the officials can’t agree on?

The purpose of the 2-Pell-Grants-per-year proposal is to help students “accelerate” their degree completion — and it is the definition of “accelerate” that is still being debated (no agreement yet). As far as this specific update is concerned, federal legislators define “accelerate” as helping students complete their degree faster than is normal — that is, ahead of other students in the same program. But non-federal college officials define “accelerate” as helping students complete their degree faster than they would have otherwise, if they had not gotten the extra financial aid.

College authorities do not want part-time students to lose out on qualifying for two Pell Grants per school year just because they are completing their degrees at a slower pace than fulltime students.

Should a second Pell Grant be awarded only to help students finish their degrees sooner than their fellow students who didn’t get Pell Grants? Or should a qualifying student be eligible for a second Pell Grant when the grant becomes the difference between staying in school part-time or being forced to drop out due to lack of money? That seems to be the question.

What would Senator Pell do?

We’ll have to wait a little while longer for the answer. The discussion between federal and college officials is still ongoing, but the official schedule dictates they will have to come to an understanding by the end of the year.