The Federal Pell Grant Program is one of the largest in the United States. It provides financial aid to thousands of college students every year. In 2009 official changes to the program were announced. The maximum grant is now larger and more students can participate in the program. Another major change is that eligible students can now receive a Pell Grant for summer college courses. This amendment is valid from the summer of 2010 onwards.
You can now receive a Pell Grant optional disbursement of $2,675 if you take courses in the summer term. Previously, it was possible for students to get this type of funding, only if they had not received the grant for the spring or fall semester. Now you can use the entire amount you are awarded during the academic year (the fall and spring semesters) and receive funding for taking summer courses as well.
The amount of the Pell Grant you receive for the summer is determined on the basis of a range of factors including the number of classes you take. Still, the application process is the same. You have to fill in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and mark that you will need financial aid for the summer term.
Given that the change was introduced in late 2009 some students might have not included this request in the FAFSA for the summer of 2010. If this is applicable to you, you need to contact your financial aid office for help. Most schools do not require you to change your FAFSA. Students are usually asked to complete a separate form from the school to get the funding. Keep in mind, however, that this is a special measure for summer 2010 only.
There is another important aspect that you should take into account. In order to get a Pell Grant for the standard academic year, you are not obliged to meet any academic criteria. This is not the case with the summer Pell Grant, however. In order to be eligible for this scholarship, you have to meet a number of requirements.
You must have completed 24 credit hours in total throughout the academic year (the fall and spring semesters). In addition, you must have received passing grades (or higher). The third eligibility criterion requires you to have at least 6 credit hours of classes during the summer. This means that you have to be on a half-time summer program, at least. As said earlier, the number of credit hours will determine the amount of Pell Grant money you get, as usual. This rule is not amended.
The changes in the Federal Pell Grant Program are more than beneficial. You can readily get financial aid for your summer courses. It is a good idea for you to fill in your FAFSA form as early as possible in order to secure the money you need. In addition, it takes some time for schools to adjust to the changes in the Federal aid programs. For this reason, you should keep an eye on the announcements regarding the summer Pell Grant coming from the financial aid office of your school.
Update April 12, 2011: Due to recent changes proposed to the Federal Budget of 2011, additional Pell Grant for Summer College courses might no longer be available. Students are recommended to look for alternative options to fund their summer courses.