Understanding Pell Grant Requirements

Among the scholarship options available today, Pell Grants are on everyone’s Most Wanted list. The reason for this is simple – these grants do not have to be paid back. In other words, they are free money for the lucky students that qualify! For students that normally wouldn’t have a chance at college education, this can be a real blessing. This also makes the entire process of getting a Pell grant rather competitive. In order to better understand how you can qualify, it helps to know the Pell Grant Requirements.

Can Anyone Apply?

Pell grants are not open to everyone – in fact, you need to be from a low-income family in order to be eligible. One of the biggest qualification criteria is called Expected Family Contribution or EFC – this calculates how much the family will be able to spend on their child’s college education. The lower the EFC factor, the more eligible you are for a high Pell grant amount. EFC is calculated on the sum of money earned by the student and parents combined. If this amount exceeds a certain amount, the student will not be eligible for a Pell grant.

Another factor that makes this grant so popular is that there are no caps on it – most grants allow you to only borrow a limited amount of money over your lifetime. The Pell Grant however allows you to take as much as you need, provided that the money is for the student’s first bachelor degree and they qualify for the grant. There is however a limit of one Pell Grant per student per year.

The Attendance Factor

Attendance also plays a key role in determining who qualifies for a Pell grant. There are two factors to consider here – one is the Cost of Attendance or COA. This refers to the cost of the student’s attendance to the university or college they are applying to. The higher the cost, the more eligible they will be to receive a sizable grant. The second factor refers to class attendance – that is, whether the student will be attending school on a full time or part time basis. It’s important to note that the Pell grant is one of the few funding opportunities open to students who attend school on a less-than-half-time basis. However, full time students are eligible for larger sums with the amount decreasing for three-quarter, half-time and less-than-half-time students.

There are currently 5400 schools that are part of the Pell grant program. Those students who qualify can be covered for 18 semesters – this money can go towards any aspect of student life, such as room and board or books. In order to apply for this grant, you will need to fill out a FAFSA form to find out if you qualify – even if you don’t qualify for a Pell Grant, chances are that you will be able to get some other form of funding. In general, the basic Pell Grant Requirements are that the student must come from a home that earns less than $20,000 annually and have a high school diploma or GED.

What is a Pell Grant – A Synopsis

The Pell Grant is a financial aid given by the Federal government to students belonging to the lower income group. The purpose of the grant is to enable them to pursue undergraduate courses. Students pursuing a post baccalaureate teacher certification program may also avail the Pell Grant. This grant, unlike a student loan, need not be repaid.

The Pell grant was instituted in the year 1972 as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant. There are approximately 5400 post secondary institutions that are part of the program. So far millions of financially weak students have benefited from the grant. Usually the grant is awarded to students where the annual income of the student’s family is below $20000. However, to be eligible for the Pell Grant, one must meet certain criteria. These criteria are:

• One must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non- citizen.
• One must be pursuing undergraduate studies.
• The Economic Family Contribution (EFC), as computed by a formula from the data given by the student, must be below a certain level.
• One must have a high school diploma or a GED or should be able to gain advantage from the program.

The funds, which are allocated by the Federal Government towards the Pell Grant, vary from year to year. For the year 2008-2009 the maximum grant that will be given to an individual student is $4731. However, the amount of the actual grant that is awarded to a student depends on his or her unique financial situation. The factors that determine how much financial assistance the student will get are:
• The cost of the school
• The family’s economic condition
• The number of members in the family
• Whether the course is part-time or full time course
• Whether the student plans to attend school for the full academic year or not.

The Pell Grant is awarded for 18 semesters. The award is either given to the student directly (through the medium of a check) or applied by the school towards the cost of the school. A combination of the two methods may also be used. The payment is made once in every term. Usually a student can avail only one grant. In certain cases if the student accelerates his academic program then he may be eligible for another Pell grant.

So how does one apply for the Pell Grant? All one has to do is to fill in the FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid) form. This form is available at high schools, colleges, vocational schools, libraries, community and state agencies. By filling this form, the student simultaneously applies for all other financial aids.

When this form is processed, the student can know whether he is eligible for the Pell Grant and the extent of aid that he can get. He will also come to know about his eligibility for other financial aid programs. It takes between two weeks to a month to know the outcome of the application. One should apply for the grant by June to be eligible for the next academic year.

The Pell Grant has so far fulfilled its objective of helping students from the lower income families to continue their education. Many have been able to accomplish their dreams of earning a college degree with its aid.

Pell Grant Information Center