If you’re trying to figure out how to pay for your higher education and are looking for financial assistance, then the Federal Pell Grant may be your answer. This brief article attempts to cover basic information and answer some common questions about the Pell Grant.

So let’s get into it.

The Federal Pell is a grant funded by the federal government and administered to students through the Department of Education. It is one of the largest grant programs offered by the U.S. Government for undergraduate students and has been around since the academic year 1973-1974. 

It was named (rather, renamed, in 1980) after Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, who was the program’s primary sponsor. Before 1980, it was known simply as the ‘Basic Educational Opportunity Grant.’ 

In the 2019-2020 academic year, the percentage of undergraduate students who received a Pell Grant was 33.6% (i.e., roughly a third of all undergraduate students), according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

To be eligible for a Pell Grant, you have to meet certain criteria.

Firstly, as with most federally funded financial aid, you typically need to have U.S. Citizenship

The Pell program is usually only available to undergraduate students who haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree. Although in certain cases, it may be awarded to students seeking postbaccalaureate teaching certifications. 

You also need to be enrolled in a college or university that participates in the Pell Grant program. 

Additionally, the program awards financial aid only to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. The Department of Education uses a standard formula to evaluate the financial information provided in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – which is an estimate of the amount that your family can contribute towards your college fees. (Related: Learn how to fill out your FAFSA in simple steps).

It is important to note that with the Pell Grant, you must maintain your eligibility yearly. If you unenroll from your course, you may need to repay the grant money. 

Factors that may render you ineligible for a Pell Grant:

  • Having a criminal record and being previously incarcerated for certain offenses may affect your eligibility. 
  • If you are defaulting on any federal loans you may have borrowed, you may be deemed ineligible for a Pell Grant. Students who receive a full scholarship are also ineligible. 

While applying, you have to sign a statement certifying that you will only use the funds for educational and related purposes. 

To apply for a Pell Grant, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can do this through the official FAFSA website. Ensure that you add schools to your FAFSA that participate in the Pell program. Your FAFSA information will be used to determine your eligibility. (Even if you feel you aren’t eligible for a Pell Grant, you should still fill out the FAFSA, since it can help you access other financial aid). 

If you’re eligible, you can have your grant money disbursed in different ways, though the schools often decide this for eligible students. You can have your school apply the grant funds to school costs, or have the funds disbursed to you directly, or even have a combination of both.

If you are deemed eligible for a Pell Grant, the amount you will receive may vary depending on factors such as your expected family contribution (EFC), the cost of attendance (COA) for your chosen program, the college you enroll in, and a number of other factors. 

To continue receiving financial aid from the Pell Grant program, you have to fill out and submit the FAFSA each year. Since your financial status and the information entered on FAFSA are likely to change each year, your EFC and the amounts you receive from the grant are also subject to change. 

The limit on how much aid you can receive from the program in total is 12 terms, i.e. roughly six years of funding. 

It is important to note that you can consider submitting an appeal to receive more financial aid, especially in case of unforeseen circumstances that may cause your family’s financial situation to change after your FAFSA has been filed.

The grant amount can change every year based on decisions taken by Congress. For the award year 2022–23 (July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023), the maximum Pell Grant award was $6,895, as per official reports.  For the award year 2023-24, the maximum award was $7,395. The amount awarded to students varies depending on factors such as their family’s financial status, the cost of attendance for the program and college chosen by the student, etc. 

The amount awarded through the Pell Grant applies for the entire award year (typically from the current July 1 to the next June 30). Your college usually decides when and how you will receive your grant money.

The effectiveness of your grant funds in making college education more affordable for you will largely depend on the college and the course you enroll in. At community colleges and many online colleges, Pell Grant funds could practically pay off all major expenses, while at top-tier colleges, it may only cover a portion of your overall fees. 

You can estimate your EFC and the rough amount of financial aid you can expect to receive through this official Federal Student Aid Estimator.

The Federal Pell Grant is one of the largest grant programs for undergraduate students funded by the federal government. It is awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need to help them cover college costs. There are also certain eligibility criteria that students must meet to access funds from the program.

To apply for one, you simply need to fill out the FAFSA on time and enter your financial information correctly. The amount you receive from the Pell Grant may vary based on factors such as the expected family contribution (EFC), cost of attendance (COA) at the college of your choice, etc. 

The Federal Pell Grant can have significant benefits for students who require financial aid for their college education. So if you are potentially eligible, don’t miss out! We wish you the best of luck on your educational journey.  

Do I have to repay the money received via a Pell Grant?

Typically, you do not have to pay back a Pell Grant, and the amount awarded through Pell Grants generally does not accrue interest like student loans. However, in certain situations, like dropping out of school or incompletion of your course, you will likely receive notifications from your school’s financial aid office and will have a reasonable deadline to repay the funds or agree to a repayment plan. It is advisable to read the terms and conditions of your Pell Grant carefully and to contact your school’s financial aid office if you have any questions or concerns.

What is the maximum amount of Pell Grant that I can receive?

For the award year 2023-24, the maximum Pell Grant award was $7,395. The amount awarded to students varies depending on factors such as their family’s financial status, the cost of attendance for the program and college chosen by the student, etc.