On Wednesday, President Obama proposed more money for Pell Grants that help qualified low-income students afford college. Starting in 2011, the maximum award will automatically increase alongside the rising cost-of-living, which would increase the maximum federal Pell Grant to $6,900 by 2019.
In the 2005-06 school year, the number of Pell Grant recipients grew to 6.2 million from 4.7 million. The average Pell Grant awarded also grew to $2,223 from $1,885. So, the proposed increase that President Obama mentioned on Wednesday would mean even more Pell grant money for even more qualified students!
So what does it take to meet pell grant qualifications?
Well, there is no “one size fits all” recipient.
Keep in mind, the Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduates with a high degree of unmet financial need; most Pell money goes to students with a total family income around or below $20,000. But, students whose families have a total income of up to $50,000 may be eligible too. In 2005-2006, students with family incomes of less than $20,000 accounted for 57% of Pell Grant recipients.
Your eligibility is determined by the FAFSA, and in order to meet Pell grant qualifications for the 2010-2011 school year, the highest your EFC should be around 4617, per Vicki Klinowski, of College Loan Consultant, who also provided the graph below. An EFC is the amount you or your family can be expected to contribute toward your college tuition.
Pell Grant qualifications can be affected by a student’s enrollment status as well as income earned through employment, too. Think about it – if you are enrolled half-time, your tuition is less and therefore you will require less aid. Undergraduates who work while they are enrolled are more likely to have incomes that decrease their eligibility for federal need-based aid (ahh, didn’t think of that, did you?). Some low-income students may even find themselves ineligible for Pell Grants because they are enrolled part time at very low cost colleges, or they work while they are enrolled, or do both.
In the 2003-2004 school year, more than 1.5 million college students who likely were eligible to receive Pell Grants didn’t bother applying for them because they found the FAFSA form too confusing. Don’t count yourself out! A number of changes have been made to the new FAFSA for the 2010-2011 school year which include simplifying the form.