What is the Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant can help you afford college

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Between scholarships, federal aid, and loans there is a lot to do before heading to college in the fall, but one thing you don’t want to forget about is the Pell Grant. It’s one more reason to complete the FASFA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, form. But what exactly is it?

What Is the Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is a federal subsidy that, unlike a loan, does not need to be repaid but there are limitations as to who can receive one. They are first only eligible to students who have demonstrated the financial need. You also have to have not yet received a Bachelor’s or professional degree, though there are a few exceptions including for post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs.

However, not all schools participate in the Pell Grant program. Currently, about 5,400 colleges, universities, and other post-secondary institutions throughout the country take part. This results in approximately 5.4 million students benefiting from the federal grant.

It’s also important to note that you cannot receive the Pell Grant if you are incarcerated and you cannot receive more than one Pell Grant at a time.

How Much Do You Get From The Grant?

The amount you receive from the Pell Grant depends on several factors, but the most you can receive changes every year. For 2016-2017, the limit was $5,815. Your personal and family’s financial need, tuition and school costs, and how many semesters you plan to stay in for the upcoming academic year all affect how much you will receive. Whether you are a full time or part-time student will also determine the amount of the grant.

If you are the son or daughter of a parent who died in Iraq or Afghanistan after 2001, you may also be eligible for more money.

While you do not normally have to repay the federal grant, there are a few exceptions. If you leave school early from the program or your enrollment status switches from full time to part-time, you may have to pay back the money that was given. Scholarships and other grants could also have an effect on the Pell Grant’s repayment requirement.

How Do You Apply?

Thankfully, applying for the Pell Grant is easy. Filling out the FAFSA will automatically qualify as an application for the federal grant. Remember to fill out the form every year as your eligibility may change.

If you are awarded the Federal Pell Grant, there are a few routes you and your school can take. Most schools will put the money directly towards the cost to attend, covering fees, tuition, and any potential housing expenses if you choose to stay on campus. Others may decide to pay you directly, send a check, or a combination of all three.

Applying for federal student aid is a must for all students who are planning to attend college, even if you don’t believe you will be eligible for any loans. The Pell Grant is just one other reason that makes filling out the FASFA essential to starting college.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the country—for FREE!

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2 thoughts on “What is the Pell Grant?”

  1. Avatar Robert Davis says:

    if I decide not to use the pell grant what do I do

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hello, Robert! We have a helpful guide to financial aid (and the order in which you should seek it out) over here: How to Prioritize Your Financial Aid Opportunities. Hope this helps!

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