Worried that college is out of your budget? You need to look into applying for the Pell Grant.
As a source of federal financial aid, the Pell Grant is a loan you don’t have to pay back. It’s one of the best grants students from low-income families can take advantage of to complete their education.
But now you may be asking: “What is a Pell Grant?”. So, keep reading to find more details about the Pell Grant’s requirements, eligibility, and application process. Don’t give up your chance to get free financial aid.
What Is A Pell Grant?
Created in 1972, the Pell Grant had the aim to bring college and higher education to those who could not afford it otherwise. First named the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant and later renamed after Rhode Island Sen. Claiborne Pell, this grant is the largest source of grants for post-secondary education in four decades.
According to the Department of Education, in 2019, 7.6 million students were awarded the Pell Grant, which amounts to a total of $30.4 billion in aid.
What Are The Pell Grant Requirements?
The Pell Grant doesn’t have a long list of requirements for potential students to apply. The biggest requirement applicants need to pass to gain access to free money is having proof that they need exceptional financial aid.
Let’s dive into the Pell Grant eligibility requirements:
- Applicants must be seeking an undergraduate degree.
- Applicants cannot be incarcerated or involuntarily admitted to a mental health institution after being incarcerated for a sexual offense.
- Applicants who are graduate students are only eligible for the grant if they are applying for a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate.
As the Pell Grant is federal financial aid for those in need, it doesn’t require you to pay anything back. The only reasons you will need to pay all or part of the grant back is if you withdraw from school early, have another scholarship or grant that covers all of your costs, or change your enrollment status. Occasionally, students receive more money than the grant allows, this situation is known as “overpay”. In this case, the student must pay back any overpay to the government or set up a payment plan within 45 days of being notified.
It’s also important to note that there is a limit on how many semesters can be covered by the Pell Grant. Students can only use the Pell Grant for 12 school semesters within their lifetime. The amount students can receive annually is also capped, however, this limit is reviewed and can be subject to change each year. For the 2019/2020 academic year, the most an applicant can receive is $6,195.
What Are The Pell Grant Income Limits?
Because the main requirement to be accepted for the Pell Grant is your inability to afford college, it shouldn’t be surprising that your family income level plays a major part in your eligibility. While there isn’t a national income limit for the Pell Grant, the amount you are awarded depends on your expected family contribution (EFC) and your school’s attendance fees. This is calculated with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
While there are many calculators and formulas available to discover what your estimated amount is, students applying for the Pell Grant can use the FAFSA4caster tool from the U.S. Department of Education for the most accurate results.
If your parents’ income affects your Pell Grant eligibility in a negative way, you shouldn’t lose hope as there is one way you can still get the grant. By declaring your independence from your parents, you can still receive all the benefits of the Pell Grant in the case that your parents don’t intend to pay for your college fees. If your parents’ earn more than the Pell Grant allows, this is the only way the FAFSA will consider you for this grant.
How To Apply For A Pell Grant
Applying for the Pell Grant must be done each year after the FAFSA is released, on October 1st, to receive the grant for the following academic year. By filling in your FAFSA, not only will you be applying for the Pell Grant but you’ll be put in the running for all federal loans, grants, and work-study programs.
Filling out the FAFSA is completely free of charge to encourage all students to apply. Therefore, even if you don’t think you are eligible for the Pell Grant or other financial aid, you won’t be put out of pocket to check. Submitting a FAFSA doesn’t cause any harm and should be done by all students on the off chance that they could be eligible for some help.
You should note that there are three deadlines for the FAFSA. These are your college, state, and federal deadlines. The best practice is to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible to not miss out on any potential aid. This is due to some financial aid, such as work-study programs, having a first-come, first-served policy.
Once you’ve submitted your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report for you to review for any mistakes or errors. Then, you will receive an award letter from your college outlining what aid you can claim. It’s in this letter that you will discover if you’ll be receiving the Pell Grant. Overall, the Pell Grant application process is relatively easy and can be completed by any individual.
Can You Get More Aid?
If you’re a child of a member killed in the military in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11, then you can receive additional aid on top of your Pell Grant funds.
To receive the extra aid, you must have been under 24 years of age when your parent or guardian was killed in the military. You must also be currently enrolled in either part-time or full-time study at a college or career school. If you meet these requirements, the Federal Student Aid office will change your EFC to $0. With your EFC changed, you’ll be eligible for more Pell Grant aid.
Students who aren’t able to get the federal Pell Grant funding might qualify for the Iraq and Afghanistan Grant instead. The maximum amount you can receive with the Iraq and Afghanistan Grant in 2019 is $5,810.91 if funds are disbursed before October 1, 2019, and $5,829.50 if funds are disbursed afterward. To apply for this fund, you can simply fill out a FAFSA.
Final Tips For The Pell Grant
If you’re applying for the Pell Grant, there are a few other things you should consider. Read through these quick pointers for everything you need to know about the Pell Grant:
- The Pell Grant is free financial aid for college and higher education meaning that the money doesn’t have to be repaid. However, there are a few conditions that may apply.
- Applying for the Pell Grant is completely free and can be done by submitting your FAFSA.
- There is a cap on the Pell Grant aid for each academic year. In the 2019/2020 academic year, the limit is $6,195.
- You can only use the Pell Grant for one school at a time.
- The Pell Grant won’t affect the amount you receive from other federal financial aid that you qualify for.
- Children of members who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11 might be able to receive more Pell Grant funding.
- Any funds left over from the grant after paying for tuition, fees, room, and board are then disbursed directly to you.
The Pell Grant is an excellent resource for students from low-income families to have a shot at higher education. With the chance to receive $6,195 completely free of charge, all students, even those who aren’t sure of their eligibility, should apply for the Pell Grant.
Filling out a FAFSA is free and doesn’t take a lot of effort. It also puts you in the running for other types of federal financial aid. Without filling out your FAFSA form, you’ll have no hope of receiving the Pell Grant. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to try.
If for some reason you aren’t able to receive federal financial aid, it may be worth looking into other grant alternatives or looking into getting employed at a company that offers assistance with tuition or with student loan repayment.