Pell Grants

Senator Claiborne Pell, for whom the Pell Grant is named

Senator Claiborne Pell, for whom the Pell Grant is named

One of the most well-known need-based college grants is the federal Pell Grant. Pell Grants are awarded to low-income college students whose family income falls below a certain level. In 2008, federal funding for the Pell Grant program was increased, providing grants for more applicants than in the past and for grants to be increased in dollar amount.

A federal grant such as the Pell Grant does not have to be paid back, so this is a free source of financial aid.

Pell Grant Amounts

For the 2009-2010 school year, the maximum Pell Grant is $5,350. For the 2010-2011 year, the maximum will increase again to $5,550. Generally, the minimum Pell grant is $400.

Pell Grant Eligibility

In order to qualify for a Pell Grant you must be a U.S. citizen and an undergraduate student. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you are not eligible for a Pell.

For now, the Pell Grant is awarded once a year, although this may change in the future. The amount of each individual student’s Pell Grant is based on:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): the amount that the federal government determines your family can pay towards your college costs. Calculated from information you provide in your FAFSA, the EFC is a formula that takes into account your family’s size, income, and financial assets, including such information as the number of family members in college at the same time.
  • Cost of Attendance (COA): a total of all the costs involved in attending each specific school. Costs of attendance certainly include tuition and related academic fees, but also other costs you’d have to pay or cover in order to attend school, such as housing costs, IT fees, and possibly transportation.
  • Enrollment status: whether you’re a full-time or part-time student

FAFSA = Pell Grant Application

When you fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you are automatically considered for a Pell Grant, so in fact your FAFSA is your Pell Grant application.

In order to ensure and speed up your chance for a Pell Grant, you should submit your FAFSA according to your school or your state‘s financial aid deadline—NOT the federal deadline, which is much later than most schools and states. Once your FAFSA is processed, you’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR) in return that will tell you what your EFC is and if you qualified for a Pell Grant.

Learn more about Pell Grants in these articles and blog-posts:

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