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What Are The Requirements For A Pell Grant?

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

The high cost of college tuition is a major barrier for many students who want to pursue higher education. Fortunately, the federal government offers various financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant, to help eligible students pay for college. 

In this article, we will discuss the requirements for a Pell Grant and how to maintain eligibility.

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant is a need-based federal grant program that provides financial aid to low-income undergraduate students who want to pursue higher education. It was created in 1965, and since then, it has helped millions of students achieve their academic goals. The Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program for college students, and it is available to students pursuing their first undergraduate degree.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a Pell Grant, a student must meet certain criteria, including:

  • Financial need: Pell Grants are awarded based on financial need. The student's expected family contribution (EFC) must be below a certain level, which is determined by the federal government each year. The EFC is calculated based on the student's family income, assets, and other factors.
  • Citizenship: The student must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen.
  • Academic status: The student must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program at a participating institution.
  • High school diploma or GED: The student must have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.
  • Selective Service registration: Male students must be registered with the Selective Service System.

Qualifying for a Pell Grant

In addition to the general eligibility requirements, there are specific criteria that a student must meet to qualify for a Pell Grant. These include:

Age and Time

There are no age restrictions for receiving a Pell Grant. However, a student must be a first-time undergraduate student who has not previously earned a bachelor's or professional degree. Also, a student can receive Pell Grant funding for a maximum of 12 semesters or the equivalent.

Cost of Attendance

The amount of the Pell Grant award is based on the student's financial need, cost of attendance, and enrollment status. The cost of attendance includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other education-related expenses.

Enrollment Status

The amount of the Pell Grant award is also affected by the student's enrollment status. Full-time students are eligible for a higher award amount than part-time students.

How Do I Apply?

To apply for a Pell Grant, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used to determine the student's eligibility for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The FAFSA application is available online and should be completed as soon as possible after October 1st of each year.

Requirements After Getting A Pell Grant

Once a student receives a Pell Grant, there are certain requirements they must meet to maintain their eligibility for future awards.

Maintaining The Pell Grant

To maintain eligibility for a Pell Grant, a student must:

  • Continue to demonstrate financial need: The student must continue to have a low EFC and meet the financial need requirements.
  • Make satisfactory academic progress: The student must maintain a certain GPA and complete a certain number of credit hours each year to remain eligible for the Pell Grant.
  • Attend school: The student must attend school and complete their coursework. If the student drops out of school or does not attend the required number of classes, they may lose their Pell Grant eligibility.
  • Report any changes in financial status: If the student's financial situation changes during the school year, they must report the changes to the financial aid office. This can include changes in income, family size, or other factors that affect the student's financial need.

Repaying Pell Grants

Unlike loans, Pell Grants do not need to be repaid. However, there are certain circumstances where a student may be required to repay part or all of their Pell Grant. For example, if the student drops out of school before completing the semester, they may be required to return a portion of their Pell Grant funds.

What If You Don't Qualify for a Pell Grant?

If a student does not qualify for a Pell Grant, there are other types of federal financial aid they may be eligible for, including:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans: These loans are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The interest on these loans is paid by the federal government while the student is in school.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. Interest accrues on these loans while the student is in school.
  • Federal Work-Study: This program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need. The program helps students earn money to pay for college expenses.
  • State and Institutional Aid: Many states and colleges offer their own financial aid programs to help students pay for college. These programs may have different eligibility requirements than federal aid programs.

How Pell Grant Eligibility Works

The Pell Grant is a valuable source of financial aid for low-income students who want to pursue higher education. The Pell Grant is available to students who meet certain requirements, including financial need, citizenship, academic standing, and more. Students must maintain their eligibility for the Pell Grant by demonstrating financial need, making satisfactory academic progress, being in school, and reporting any changes to their financial situation. Overall, the Pell Grant is an important program that helps to make higher education more accessible to students from all backgrounds. 

If a student does not qualify for a Pell Grant, other types of federal and state financial aid are available to help them pay for college. You can explore our Gov Relations resources to find scholarships for students with disabled parents.

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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