If you belong to a low-income family, you may find it very difficult to finance your higher education. In fact, this is the main reason why many undergraduates never get to earn a bachelor’s or a professional degree. Pell grants offer a great solution to this problem. It is a Federal Government grant, which may sound like a loan, but is different from loans in a way – you do not have to repay the amount ever. These grants are awarded to undergraduate students who are financially not sound enough to go for higher education. The Federal Government started offering this grant in the year 1960 with an objective to help financially poor undergraduate students receive college education.
Pell Grant Eligibility Criteria
There is certain eligibility criteria that you need to fulfill in order to qualify for Pell Grants. First and foremost, these grants are awarded to only those students who are making satisfactory progress with their studies but need financial support to continue their education. The family income of such students should not be more than $20000 per year. However, there can be some exception – subject to the sole discretion of the Grant Committee. You will also have to prove that you are educated enough to benefit from the higher education for which the Pell grants are offered. In general, you must have at least a GED or a High School diploma. Besides that, you must be a US citizen with a valid social security number. However, if you are already in default of another Federal student loan or grant, you will not be able to qualify for a Pell grant.
However, before the grant money is paid to you, you will be asked to fulfill a form (FASFA form) to certify that you are going to use the money only for educational purpose. There are 5400 participating institutions where you can enroll in a bachelor’s or a professional degree course.
You can apply for Pell grants online by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The information provided by you will be verified and if you meet the minimum qualifying criteria, you will be asked submit some documents to your financial aid office. The documentation may include the following –
- Social security
- W-2 information
- Bank statements
- Information about investment and mortgage
- Business records, if any
- Actual or estimated Federal tax returns
- If applicable, the details of untaxed income e.g., veteran’s benefits
The complete process may take around two months. The period can be even longer in case there are some issues to be resolved during the verification process. The good thing is that a student can apply for Pell grant every year and be awarded – provided he/she meets the eligibility requirements thoroughly. However, a single student can be awarded only one grant per academic year.
It is also important for you to understand that Pell Grant is not considered an income or asset. Therefore, receiving the grant money will not affect your eligibility for other financial aid programs, such as the Social Security Disability Insurance program or Supplemental Security Income program.