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What Are The Qualifications For Pell Grant In The U.S.?

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

Most students dream of getting into college but are shattered when they learn of the huge costs of higher education. Fortunately, financial aid programs are available to help eligible low-income students afford college. 

One of these is the Pell Grant, and this article discusses in detail the qualifications for Pell Grant. Let’s dive in. 

Importance Of Financial Aid For Students

Financial aid is crucial for students who may not have the financial resources to pay for their education. Without financial aid, many students would be unable to pursue their academic goals, leading to limited opportunities and potentially perpetuating the cycle of poverty. 

Financial aid can come from scholarships, grants, loans, or work-study programs and can cover tuition, fees, textbooks, housing, and other living expenses. In addition, various financial aid programs help increase access to higher education and assist students in achieving their career aspirations by providing them with the necessary financial support. 

Additionally, financial aid can reduce the burden of student debt and help ensure that all students have an equal chance to succeed, regardless of their financial background. In the US, financial aid is available to all students, regardless of their background, as long as they meet the qualification criteria.

Overview Of The Pell Grant Program

The Pell Grant is a federal financial aid program that provides assistance to low-income undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. The grant is designed to help cover the cost of tuition, fees, textbooks, and other educational expenses. It is the largest federal grant program for undergraduate students, providing billions of dollars in aid each year to help make college more affordable and accessible for low-income students.

The Pell Grant is available to students pursuing their first bachelor's degree and, in some cases, students pursuing a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program. In addition, the grant does not have to be repaid, making it a desirable form of financial aid for many students.

Who Qualifies For A Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is intended for undergraduate students without a bachelor's or professional degree.

The qualifications for Pell Grant are:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • Have a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent, such as a GED certificate.
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program.
  • Demonstrate exceptional financial need, as determined by the EFC on the FAFSA.
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress while in school.

The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 academic year is $7,395, but it varies depending on the EFC, COA, and other factors. Students can apply for the Pell Grant by completing the FAFSA each year.

Eligibility Requirements Based On Financial Need

The eligibility requirements for the Pell Grant are largely based on financial need. To determine eligibility, the U.S. Department of Education uses a formula that takes into account several factors, including:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC): The EFC is calculated based on the financial information provided on the FAFSA. It considers income, assets, family size, and the number of family members attending college.
  • Cost of attendance (COA): The COA is determined by the college or university and includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses.
  • Enrollment status: The amount of the Pell Grant also depends on the student's enrollment status, whether full-time or part-time.

Income Limits For Eligible Students

There is no maximum income limit to qualify for the Pell Grant. However, low- to moderate-income (less than $40,000 annually) are typically awarded the maximum Pell Grant amount. But even higher-income families can be awarded the Pell Grant if other situations attest to their financial needs.

Family Contribution Calculation

The family contribution calculation for the Pell Grant is based on the financial information provided on the FAFSA. The FAFSA considers a family's income, assets, family size, and the number of family members attending college to calculate the EFC. 

The EFC is a measure of a family's financial strength and is used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant.

The formula for calculating the EFC is based on a standard set by Congress and takes into account various factors, including:

  • Income: The FAFSA considers both taxable and untaxed income, including wages, salaries, and self-employment income.
  • Assets: The FAFSA considers certain assets, such as savings and investments, but excludes others, such as a family's primary residence and retirement accounts.
  • Family size: The number of people in a student's family is considered when calculating the EFC.
  • The number of family members in college: The FAFSA considers the number of family members currently enrolled in college.


Getting into college doesn’t have to be impossible. With the help of financial aid programs like the Pell Grant, students can enjoy higher education and get better opportunities in life.

Understand the other eligibility factors for the Pell Grant in our blog.

Want to learn more? Check out our article about what are Pell Grants?

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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