What is a Pell Grant?
If you think you don’t have enough money to pay for college, the U.S. government can help you through the Federal Pell Grant Program. Pell Grants are federal grants for low-income students. Unlike most federal aid, these grants do not need to be repaid. The Pell Grants were established in 1965, and nearly $30 billion in grants were available to eligible students in 2020. For the 2021-22 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant amount is $6,495.
Fast Facts: Federal Pell Grants.
- Only low-income students are eligible for Pell Grants.
- The maximum amount of a Pell Grant is $6,495 per year.
- The FAFSA determines your eligibility each year.
- Pell Grants can be used for a maximum of 12 semesters or 6 years.
- Poor grades, increased income, and other factors can affect student eligibility.
Who is eligible for a Pell Grant?
Recipients of the federal Pell Grant are almost always undergraduate students, although it is possible to qualify for the grant for certain post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs.
To qualify for a Pell Grant, a student must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out what his or her Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is. A student with a low EFC is often eligible for a Pell Grant. Once the FAFSA is sent, students will be informed if they are eligible for Pell Grants. There is no specific application for a Pell Grant.
Colleges and universities must meet certain federal regulations in order to participate in the Federal Pell Grant Program. Most undergraduate institutions meet these requirements, and about 5,400 institutions qualify.
In 2020, just under seven million students received Pell Grants. The federal government pays the grant to the school, and then each semester the school pays the student either by check or by credit to the student’s account.
The amount of the award depends largely on four factors:
- The student’s financial situation
- The cost of the school
- The student’s enrollment status (full-time or part-time)
- The length of time the student is enrolled (full year or less)
How is the Pell Grant paid out?
Your grant money will go directly to your college, and the financial aid office will direct the money to tuition, fees, and, if applicable, room and board. If there is any money left over, the college will pay it directly to you to help cover other college expenses.
Don’t lose your Pell Grant!
Keep in mind that receiving a Pell Grant for one year does not guarantee that you will qualify in subsequent years. If your family income increases significantly, you will no longer be eligible. Some other factors may also affect your eligibility:
- If you fail to pay your federal student loans on time, you may lose your Pell Grant.
- If you are not making progress toward graduation from college, you may be ineligible for the grant. The U.S. government does not want to invest in students who do not take full advantage of their academic opportunities.
- If you are convicted of a drug offense, you may become ineligible. (And some drug offenses can also lead to expulsion from college)
- If you have been in college for more than 12 semesters (6 years), you are no longer eligible for the Pell Grant.