It is not easy for most students to understand the Pell Grant. This is because eligibility is determined by the financial situation of the student, but its size depends on a wider range of factors.
The amount of financial aid you can receive depends on your expected family contribution (EFC), your cost of attending school, and the type of program you are enrolled in.
The number of classes you take is used to classify the program you are taking. Hence, this number affects the size of your Pell Grant as well. Most schools use a standard formula to determine the student’s participation based on the classes he/she is taking. All students taking classes that equal 12 or more credit hours in total are considered to be in a full-time program.
If a student has 9 to 11 credit hours, they are considered to attend 3/4 time. Students with a total number of classes that equal 6 to 8 credit hours are classified as half-time students. These classifications are standard and may differ for some educational institutions.
The general rule is that the fewer classes you take the smaller your Pell Grant will be. It is not uncommon for students in half-time programs to receive two times less than those studying full-time. However, the exact amounts depend on the school policies and whether this is the general rule.
Many students choose to drop classes in the middle of the term. In turn, this reduces the number of credit hours they have. As a result, the Pell Grant should be reduced accordingly as well. The problem comes from the fact that the student has usually received the entire sum from the scholarship already.
If you are in such a situation, you must contact the financial aid office of your school immediately. This is necessary because in most cases students are obliged to return the part of the sum that they are not entitled to given their new circumstances.
For instance, if you drop 2 classes and lose 6 of your 12 credits, then you automatically become a half-time student who is eligible for half of the grant they have received in the first place. In turn, you might be asked to pay back the other half of the sum.
It is true that not all school policies are the same and you can get away with it. However, if you do not get things straight with the financial aid office, you might lose further eligibility for a Pell Grant. This can turn out to be a huge problem next term when you may need to take more classes. It is important for you to find out what sum you need to return, if any, when, and how.
Generally, you are highly recommended not to drop any classes in the middle of the term and stick to what you have chosen in the beginning. This is good for your education. Moreover, you will not have problems with the Pell Grant and the other forms of Federal financial aid you are entitled to.