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Pell Grant Guide

The Pell Grant is one of the many financial aid options provided by the federal government, and it's possibly the best known grant out there. The Pell Grant program was begun by the Department of Education way back in 1972, making it the granddaddy of federal grants.

Its original intent, which it still adheres to today, was to help low income individuals gain higher education.

Federal Pell Grant Basics

The Pell Grant has helped close the gap between people in low-income families that go to college and those in middle to higher-income families that do the same. Here are some of the defining characteristics of Pell Grants.

  • You must fill out the FAFSA to be considered for a Pell Grant.
  • Pell Grants are need-based aid.
  • It is federal financial aid provided by the Department of Education.
  • Your other financial aid does not affect the amount of Pell Grant you receive.
  • Pell Grants are not given on a first come first serve basis; all eligible students will have the opportunity to receive the full amount they qualify for.
  • Award amounts change annually depending on the budget the federal government sets for the program.
  • You can't get a Pell Grant from more than one school within the same academic year.
  • Pell Grant funds can only be used towards education costs.

Eligibility Requirements for Pell Grants

All  low income undergraduate students can receive the Pell Grant, however low income graduate students must be enrolled in a teacher certification program to be eligible. The requirements for receiving a Pell Grant are very much like any other federal financial aid with a few disparities.

  • You must have financial need.
  • You must be attending one of the estimated 5,400 schools participating in the Pell Grant Program.
  • You must prove that you are eligible to receive post-secondary education, or in other words that you have already completed your high school education or the equivalent.
  • You must be accepted for enrollment or be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program.
  • You have to be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • You cannot have a default on a previous student loan or owe a refund on another federal grant.
  • Males must have already completed the Selective Service Registration.

How Much Aid Will the Pell Grant Give You?

The amount of the Pell Grant you're awarded depends on several things:

  • Your annual cost of attendance estimated by your school.
  • Your Expected Family Contribution or EFC.
  • Whether you're enrolled as a part-time or full-time student.
  • Whether you complete a full academic year or less.
  • Maximum amounts are set annually, with the 2008-2009 year set at $4,731.

As with eligibility, the amount of your Pell Grant will be based on how badly you need it to pay for college. The Department of Education determines financial need with the FAFSA, which is why you're required to fill it out.

The Dept. of Education keeps things fair and levels the playing field by using a set formula based on standard criteria for every single applicant when determining their EFC. You'll find out what your estimated EFC is and whether you're eligible for a Pell Grant in the Student Aid Report (SAR), which will be sent to you after your FAFSA is processed. You can then begin working with your school to find out how much your Pell Grant will be and how it will be distributed.

How Will I Receive Pell Grant Money? 

  • Your school will either give the money to you personally or deposit it in your student account at the school.
  • You also have the option of giving the school permission to deposit funds into a personal bank account.
  • You are in control of how the funds will be used, so use them wisely.
  • Pell Grant aid must be dispersed to you at least once per term.

If you're interested in applying for a Pell Grant then you need to know all about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The road to federal financial aid begins with this form. If you want to learn more than you ever thought you'd need to know about Pell Grants these documents on the Information for Financial Aid Professionals site will do the trick. 

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