Post-secondary education is expensive. Whether students attend community colleges or prestigious Ivy League schools, they almost always wind up with accrued student loan debt that has to be paid off when they graduate. This is where financial aid from the government comes into play. In an effort to help low-income students gain access to college, the federal government initiated the Pell Grant Program in 1965 to provide funding for vocational, part-time and full-time undergraduate studies.
The Pell Grant is a financial aid program to help minimize the debt load that students incur throughout their college years. The grant money is awarded on a needs-basis to low-income undergraduate and some post-graduate students, enabling them to afford an education they might otherwise not be able to and because this aid is a grant, it does not have to be repaid.
President Barack Obama has recently approved new regulations regarding the Pell Grant that will allow for the maximum payout for the 2013-2014 school year to max out at $5,550 per eligible student.
Pell Grant Eligibility
The requirements to qualify for a Pell Grant include:
- Submitting the FAFSA
- Be a United States citizen or an eligible non-citizen
- Be enrolled in a qualifying program
- Have demonstrated financial need
- Student must not have already have earned a bachelor’s or professional degree or be enrolled in a graduate program for teacher certification or licensing.
- Meet the academic standards of the institution
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
Students enrolled in eligible vocational programs or those who attend part-time can also receive Pell Grants. Part-time students will receive less money than full-time students. Only one Pell Grant can be awarded each year and a student may receive funds from only one school at a time. Receiving a Pell Grant is often a prerequisite for qualifying for other need-based financial aid such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).
In order to determine a student’s financial need, detailed financial information is obtained from the student and the student’s family. All financial aid for each school year is based on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A dependent student’s EFC takes into account the student’s and family’s income and assets, household size and how many members of the family are attending college. Different formulas are used for dependent and independent students. A new FAFSA must be submitted each year to reevaluate a student’s financial need and determine eligibility for subsequent funding.
If you already have your EFC number please use our free Pell Grant Calculator to calculate your expected pell grant funding.
Furthermore, as part of the new regulations approved by Barack Obama during the 2012 school year, students who have a parent who died in military service in Iraq or Afghanistan can also be eligible for the grant. In these cases, the “Estimated Family Contribution” calculated by an applicant’s Federal Application for Student Aid is automatically changed to “zero,” which greatly increases the student’s chances of being considered eligible for the loan. Of course, this can also depend on the student’s income and whether he or she is a dependent or independent. Another important qualification needed in order to be eligible for the Pell Grant include being enrolled in an accredited institution of higher learning for at least part-time.
Finally, while there was previously no limit in place as to how many semesters a student could collect Pell Grant funding for, President Obama has recently passed regulations that have capped students’ eligibility for no more than twelve semesters.
Applying For a Pell Grant
Applicants may receive only one Pell Grant in an award year and may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time. To apply to this grant program, students can visit their high school guidance offices or apply online by filling out a FAFSA application. Students must apply for aid by the end of June to be eligible for aid in the upcoming school year.
Once you have been approved for a Pell Grant you will receive a letter in the mail indicating how your money will be delivered. Usually Pell grants are sent to the student’s college and the institution may apply the amount of the grant to tuition and fees or give it directly to the student. The amount of the award and manner in which funds are distributed must be put in writing to each eligible student. Funds are distributed at least two times a year, either each semester for those schools on a semester system or more often for schools on a trimester or quarter system.
Pell Grant Calculator
This funding calculator uses a students Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in order to calculate the estimated pell grant funding that will be received. In order to obtain your EFC number you will need to have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).