Applying for and receiving financial aid for college can be complex and overwhelming for many students and their families. Read on as we discuss key aspects of the financial aid process, including how much the Pell Grant is.
What is a Pell Grant?
A Pell Grant is a need-based financial aid program for low-income undergraduate students in the United States. It is the largest federal grant program for college students, providing funds that need not be repaid. The grant amount varies depending on financial need, cost of attendance, and enrollment status.
Who is Eligible for a Pell Grant?
Eligibility for a Pell Grant is determined by financial need, which is based on the student's and their family's income, assets, and other factors.
To be eligible, the student must also be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an undergraduate degree or certificate program.
Cost of Attendance
The Pell Grant award amount is determined by the student's financial need and the cost of attendance (COA) at their chosen institution. The COA includes all the expenses a student may need to complete education in the institution.
Calculating Cost of Attendance (COA)
Each institution calculates the cost of attendance (COA) and includes the anticipated total amount of money required to be able to participate in education program for an academic year. This includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other related expenses.
The institution may also consider factors such as the student's residency status and whether they are enrolled full-time or part-time. The COA determines a student's financial need and eligibility for various financial aid forms, including the Pell Grant.
Maximum Award Amounts
The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 award year (July 1, 2023,, to June 30, 2024) is $7,395.
However, the actual award amount a student receives will depend on their financial need, cost of attendance, and enrollment status (full-time or part-time). Students with an expected family contribution (EFC) of 0 (meaning the student and their family have a very low income) will generally receive the full Pell Grant award. In contrast, those with a higher EFC will receive a lower amount.
Federal Student Aid and Other Funding Sources
The U.S. Department of Education runs the Federal Student Aid program, a financial assistance program available to all eligible students. The assistance comes from grants, loans, and work-study programs.
Aside from the government, there are other means to fund higher education. Other funding sources include state and institutional aid, private scholarships, and other financial assistance from outside organizations.
Private Student Loans vs. Federal Student Loans
Banks, credit unions, and other private lenders offer private student loans, while the U.S. Department of Education offers federal student loans.
Private loans typically have higher interest rates and may require a credit check, while federal loans have fixed interest rates and do not require a credit check. Federal loans also offer more flexible repayment options and may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, while private loans generally have fewer repayment options and do not offer loan forgiveness.
Enrollment Status Considerations
To receive federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant, you must be enrolled at least half-time (typically six credit hours per semester or the equivalent). However, some types of aid, such as certain scholarships or grants, may require full-time enrollment.
Full-Time or Part-Time Students
Enrollment status (full-time or part-time) can greatly impact the amount of Pell Grant you would receive. Students who are enrolled full-time may receive more financial aid than those who are enrolled part-time.
Professional Degree Programs vs. Undergraduate Studies
Professional degree programs, such as medical, law, or dental school, are often not included in financial aid programs like the Pell Grant.
However, professional students may also be eligible for additional aid forms, such as specialized scholarships or loan forgiveness programs.
Summer Semester Enrollment Options
The Pell Grant allows you to complete a summer semester and receive financial aid simultaneously. However, remember that the financial aid will be deducted from the Lifetime Pell Amount you can receive.
Application Process and Requirements
Applying for federal financial aid like the Pell Grant is straightforward. You only need to go to the FAFSA website and complete the form to jumpstart the application.
FAFSA Application Process Overview
The FAFSA application is available annually on October 1 and can be completed online at the official website. You'll be asked for personal and financial information about you and your parents.
The application generates an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) score determining your federal, state, and institutional financial aid eligibility.
How to Apply for a Pell Grant in Rhode Island
Applying for the Pell Grant in Rhode Island is the same as applying for the Pell Grant in any other state. You can follow the same process outlined above.
Student aid is a great option for determined students who want to complete a college application. Now that you know how much is the Pell Grant, be sure to complete your FAFSA application before the deadline.
Need more resources on financial aid? Learn about Scholarships and Grants for Online Students in our blog.