How to Find Out What’s Going On With Your Pell Grant

Sometimes, financial aid seems so complicated that it ought to come with a how-to manual. For example, how do you find out what’s going on with your Pell Grant or other financial aid awards if they don’t arrive by the time you need them?

Jessica, an EducationGrant reader, asked that question, which is a good one. If you’re not sure which federal grants you qualified for or how the money gets to you, here are 4 ideas about where to look for answers.

1) Recheck your Student Aid Report. After you filed your FAFSA, you should have received a federal Student Aid Report (SAR) that told you what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to your college costs would be. If you qualified for a Pell Grant or any other federal grant, it would be noted in your SAR.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you would get a check for the Pell Grant amount, though. Usually, Pell Grants are sent straight to your school, who applies the money directly to your bill: your tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance.

2) Recheck your Financial Aid Award Letter. The school or schools you applied to each sends you an Award Letter to let you know how much financial aid that school can provide you.

The amount of financial aid you qualify for is based on your “unmet need” — the difference between your school’s cost of attendance and your EFC. But even if your EFC is zero, how much aid you actually get depends on whether you’re a fulltime or part-time student, the length of your program, and the amount of need-based funding your school has to offer.

If you qualified for a Pell Grant, your school’s Award Letter will confirm it and include the amount in your total financial aid package.

3) Talk to your school’s financial aid office. If your SAR and Award Letter note that you qualified for a Pell Grant, talk to your financial aid administrator to confirm that your school received the money from the federal government. If they did, then your Pell Grant probably went straight to the school’s Finance office, where it was applied as needed to your tuition, fees, and other attendance charges.

If your cost of attendance was equal to or more than your Pell Grant, you wouldn’t have gotten any “change” back, but if your Pell Grant was more than your cost of attendance, your school would likely have sent you the leftover money. In either case, your financial aid office should be able to determine where your Pell Grant went.

4) Call the U.S. Student Aid Information Center. If you think you must have qualified for a Pell Grant but don’t see any mention of one on your SAR or Award Letter, or if your financial aid office has no record of one, call the federal financial aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243, 1-800-730-8913 (TTY), or 1-319-337-5665. (You may be asked for your FAFSA PIN.) They may be able to review your FAFSA with you or give you other instructions for checking your federal financial aid status online.

By the way, don’t forget that your FAFSA doesn’t automatically renew every year. You’ll need to file a FAFSA for each year you’re in school.

Paying for college is not a simple matter these days. College tuition is up across the country, even at state universities, along with just about every other college-related expense. At some community colleges, not even the new maximum Pell Grant ($5,350 in 2009 and $5,500 in 2010) may be enough to cover the entire cost of attendance.

No matter what’s going on with your financial aid situation, your school’s financial aid office is likely to be your best resource. Look to them for help with navigating your award package, finding potential scholarship opportunities, and appealing for more federal aid if your circumstances allow it.

8 comments to “How to Find Out What’s Going On With Your Pell Grant”

  1. Thanks again! Those phone numbers there might just be my best resource yet, because lets just say the financial aid advisors in my school are NOT a big help =/

  2. Hi Jessica,
    No worries, glad to help! But it’s puzzling to hear that your financial aid office hasn’t been especially helpful. In the FAQ section of the U.S. Student Aid website, one question is: “I have questions about my financial aid award. Who should I contact?” It is followed by this answer: “Contact the financial aid office at your school. The financial aid administrator at a postsecondary institution combines various forms of aid into a package to help meet a student’s need. Using available resources to give each student the best possible package of aid is one of the aid administrator’s major responsibilities.”

    I hope someone is able to help you find out what’s going on with your Pell Grant soon.

    Good luck!
    The EducationGrant Editor

  3. [...] but sometimes it is a royal pain in the butt to find out the status of your money.” Learn How to Find Out What’s Going On With Your Pell Grant in her informative post at EducationGrant.com [...]

  4. I am a single parent trying to make it in life I make no money and right now for college I am in need of this pell grant or grant for it to happen so I can have a better future for myself and kids.

  5. Hi Susan,
    You have the right idea about education being an important path to a better future. The article 4 Ideas for Single Moms Going Back to School will give you a basic back-to-college plan, and you can apply for a Pell grant by filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

    Also, feel free to download a copy of the EducationGrant Guide to Grants & Scholarships, which has tips and information on understanding the difference between grants and scholarships; how to apply for Pell Grants and other federal financial aid; searching for state and private grants and scholarships appropriate for you; what successful applications for state and private grants and scholarships often contain; and addresses and websites of more than 80 federal and private scholarships, so you can contact them.

    Best wishes, the EducationGrant Editor

  6. ok. I use to be in the military and I use to be under the old chapter 30 gi bill and it wouldnt cover all of my tutition. so i switch to the newer one and now the pell grant money is suppose to come to me. I have been in school in May of 09 and I am wondering if my school has my pell grant money just dont want to give it to me yet cause they want to collect interest off of it. It is now Feb 2010 AND i havent recieved anything. is there anything i can do?

  7. Hi Jimmie,
    Thanks for reading, and for serving our country in the military!
    I would consult a financial advisor, or reach out to someone in the financial aid department of your school about your Pell Grant and GI BIll concerns.

    Best of luck,
    EducationGrant Editor

  8. I am also having issues with my pell grant, and financial advisor. Supposedly there is a delay this year with the pell grants, and our Direct Loans covered our tuition. So we are supposed to get the check for our pell grants sent to us when the school receives them. Both my husband and myself are currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix-Axia online. I need to know how I can find out if there really is a delay with the pell grants this year. I started college March 28th and received my funding and excess funds check on the 15th of May. I don’t know if my school is lying to me, or if there really is a delay. Any help is greatly appreciated.

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