What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money?

Pell Grant is an educational grant given by the US Federal Government to low income families with average income of up to $60,000. Pell grant prioritizes families with lower average incomes who experience more financial difficulties especially in paying for college tuition fees. Families with incomes of less than $20,000 account for more than 57% of all grants awarded in 2006.

The Federal Government courses the Pell Grant Money through accredited institutions. These accredited institutions have two ways of giving the Pell Grants to students. First is disburse the grant to the students school account, and second is to give the money to the student, usually covered by a check. Pell Grant is paid every term period.

The Pell Grant is computed using a standard formula created by the US Department of Education. The average Pell Grant paid to students per term is averaged $2,970 in the school year 2008-2009. For the school year 2010-2011, Pell Grant Money given to students range from $550 to $5,550. Factors that affect the size of grant given to a student are family size, the parents income and assets if the student is dependent on the parents, the number of children supported by the parents who attend post-secondary education, the cost attendance, and if applicable, the income of the student if he is supporting himself for college.

Can You Claim Unused Pell Grant Money?

Many people end up having excess Pell Grant. For example, they are awarded $5,000 in Pell Grant, but the cost of attendance is only $1,500 per semester. If the school has two semesters, that leaves the students an excess of unused $2,000 in Pell Grant. If you have excess Pell Grant, you cannot DIRECTLY claim this in cash. The Financial Aid Office limits the use of Pell Grant for COST OF ATTENDANCE ONLY. What you can do is to reimburse this excess fund using receipts that fall under Cost of Attendance. This includes boarding fees, transportation fees, books, computers, daily allowance for food, and other miscellaneous fees related to school. Pell Grant will likewise cover expenses like supplies, fuel, and software that are directly related to school.

What if the Pell Grant was Disbursed to the School?

If your Pell Grant was directly disbursed to your school account, excess of it will be issued by your school through a check if all your tuition, fees, boarding, and other education-related expenses have been paid. The excess Pell Grant Money is legitimately yours, assuming that they make up for the various Cost of Attendance you paid for independently. If you have excess Pell Grant balance since Fall, the school will normally give you part of the Pell Grant, and keep the rest for you to use the following semesters in spring and summer.

Get financial assistance from your government to get you through college. To apply for a Pell Grant, start by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, accessible through this website fafsa.ed.gov. Application for the FAFSA is free. 

15 thoughts on “What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money?”

  1. I was awarded a Pell Grant in the amount of $4000 in 2003. I only used $2000 of that grant. What happens to the rest of that money? Will I be able to use that money for classes now? Any advice would be of great appreciation.


  2. The federal government considers Pell Grants to be the foundation of need-based financial aid. When your school does not need the full amount of the Pell Grant to pay your tuition bill and other items the school bills you for, you get the rest of the grant to use for other costs related to attending school.

  3. my question was do the FAFSA get refunded a Pell grant back if the student was a full-time active student that didn’t not drop a class ,but the program director found that she had given me a class I did not need, instead of giving me a waiver they said that they refunded the agency the pell grant.

  4. I am in my last semester and my classes have been paid for. I have 3000 left of Pell Grant what will happen to that money after I graduate?

  5. Back anout 20 years ago, i went to school on grant money. I barely spoke, and did not even understand about this type of assistance. I had a card i used at bookstore, and that was it. If any money is still left, i would like to further my edgacation. I also had a gov. Scholarship. I wish i had known what i had.

  6. I graduate in September and my full pell amount will not be used. I asked my advisor and he said it cannot be put towards my school loan, and I cannot get it to pay for my supplies and gas so what happens to all that excess pell?

  7. I only went to school for one semester and took the second off to adjust my personal life so that I could focus on school the following fall. It was to my understanding that I would NOT get any money from my grant but I got an email stating that my excess grant will be deposited into my account. Before I do anything with it, I want to know if I could get penalized for not using it for school.

  8. I was awarded 2,288.00, but I was only given 722.00?? That paid for classes, books. After paying for classes and books I got back 179.00?? What happens to the remaining 2,000??? It was not put in my account?? How do I get acess to this money? Or does it just go back? I was banking on this money has I am in need of other things like a new laptop for school??

  9. I am graduation this December and I only used half of the pell grant given to me. Do I get the rest of it back to use, or does it go back to the government? I can’t find any answers anywhere for my specific scenario.

  10. I was awarded $3200 Pell Grant for August 2016-July 2017(1year). My financial aid office split this into Fall/Sprin/Summer Semester. I applied and was accepted to start Springs 2017 & Summer 2017, which gives me $1088 each semester which leaves me a bal out of pocket of $290. My cost of attendance for year is over $12,000. Can the pell grant from Fall 2016 be split to help pay my difference as well as books, etc. ? Thanks in Advance. Dee

  11. I think you only receive a refund after all of your classes are covered. I don’t think they award you anything after you graduate though. I think it goes back to the bank.

  12. I finished school in the Fall semester and I am being taxed on the Pell Grant money that wasn’t used. The school says there is no money for me to be refunded for the TAX year of 2016. I understand the difference between a school year and a tax year, but I do NOT understand why I get taxed on money that I did not use. Was it given to the school? Is the accurate?

  13. I graduated from college in 2005,my student loans are in default,can I use the remaining balance to pay my interest for my student loan

  14. I was awarded the Pell Grant in 2012 and for transportation issues I could not attend school. I am currently trying to get back in school and I was wondering if I could get access to the unused grant money or I would have to apply again for FAFSA ?

  15. I still had 2000 left and never got it I graduated and didn’t owe anything. where did that money go?

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