How Is Your Pell Grant Award Determined?

Every year a large number students belonging to the low and middle income groups, apply for state financial aid to complete their studies. The Pell Grant is one such aid. It helps students complete their graduate studies. It has been noticed that usually students belonging to families that earn less than $20,000 annually are awarded this grant. However, this is a general view.

Various factors determine the amount that is awarded to a student. The Pell Grant is awarded on the basis of the following three criteria:

1. The Expected Family Contribution or EFC

As the term suggests, this refers to the amount of funds that the student’s family can contribute towards education. The EFC is arrived at by using a formula. The various factors that are included in computing EFC are:

• The income of the student and the parents (if the student is dependent)
• The number of members working in the family
• The value of the assets of the student and parents
• Bank balance
• The quantum of income tax paid
• The number of family members: there is an allowance for every addition to the number of members
• The number of college students in the family: The EFC is halved for every additional person studying in college
• Age of the parents: The older the parents, the higher the grant given

2. The Cost of Attendance (COA)
The cost of attendance will include all the expenses that the student will incur to complete his graduate studies. This would usually include:
• Tuition Fees: The tuition fees paid by the student to the school for the academic year are predictably included in the COA. The fees paid by the student for services such as library facility or health centre are also included in the COA.
• Books and Supplies: The books that a student uses for his studies are added to the cost. As are the supplies such as paper, pens, pencils, CDs or floppy disks amongst others.
• Housing and Boarding expenses: For the students not living at home, the cost of housing will include the rent paid for the room they live in and the cost of eating.
• Personal expenses: Personal expenses such as that of laundry, medical expenses and insurance also are included in the COA.
• Cost of commuting: The student will have to incur some expenses in traveling from his house to the campus. This may be a daily expense for the student. Where the student lives on campus, he will usually visit his home at least once a year.

3. The student status
Students who pursue a full-time course receive a higher grant amount than students who pursue part-time courses.

Determining The Quantum Of Award

The EFC is subtracted from the COA to decide whether the student is eligible for the grant. The balance arrived at also helps to determine the amount of the grant. The higher the EFC, the lower the grant awarded.

The student’s status, that is, whether the student is pursuing a full time or part time course will also have an impact on the grant awarded. In the current academic year of 2010-11, the maximum Pell Grant amount is $5,550.


  • Hussain Shoaib

    Hussain Shoaib is an author and digital marketer with expertise in financial aid and education. He has extensive knowledge of the Pell grant and FAFSA, and has published numerous articles on these topics.

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