Federal Pell Grants

The Federal Pell Grant is a need-based grants program for low-income undergraduate students. Unlike student loans, the Pell Grant is free money for college, which never has to be paid back.

In 2015, the federal government awarded roughly 5.4 million Pell Grants – that’s grants to slightly more than 1 out of every 4 American undergraduate student.

How Do I Quality for a Pell Grant?

Students with family incomes of up to $50,000 are eligible for the Pell Grant, however more than 90% of students receiving Pell assistance come from families earning less than $35,000 a year.

How Much Money Is a Pell Grant?

Amounts can change yearly. For the 2016–17 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017), the maximum award is $5,815.

The Federal Government’s formula for calculating each individual’s Pell Grant amount is based on a number of factors, including:

  • Cost of attendance (COA)
  • Combined family income and the number of other dependents in college
  • Whether the individual is enrolled in school full-time or part-time

Effective on July 1, 2012, you can receive the Federal Pell Grant for no more than 12 semesters or the equivalent (roughly six years). You’ll receive a notice if you’re getting close to your limit

Do I Receive My Pell Grant Directly?

No, Pell Grants are usually paid directly to your school, which applies the money to your bill for tuition, fees, room and board. If there is any money left over, the school will cut a check to you for the difference.

How Do I Apply for a Pell Grant?

To apply for a Federal Pell Grant, you need to complete a FAFSA application. Once you’ve filed your FAFSA, the Office of Federal Student Aid will forward your EFC (estimated family contribution) and all applicable federal awards to your college or university. Your school’s financial aid office will notify you in the spring with your financial aid award, including the Pell Grant.

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