Federal Pell Grants
Students with high financial need may be eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants, the most popular federal grant given primarily to low-income undergraduate students. Pell Grants, as with all grants, do not have to be repaid, and eligibility is based on a number of criteria related to your level of unmet need in pursuing your college degree. Your eligibility can only be determined after you have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Department of Education starts accepting the FAFSA on January 1st of each year, and completing the FAFSA online will speed up processing and give you more time to evaluate your funding options.
What is a Federal Pell Grant?
Unlike student loans, Federal Pell Grants do not have to be repaid. Generally, Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. (A professional degree is usually obtained after a bachelor’s degree in a field such as medicine, business or law.) In some cases, you might receive a Pell Grant for attending a post-baccalaureate teacher certificate program. Pell Grants are usually a foundation of financial aid, and often determine your eligibility for other federal grant programs like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG).
Pell Grants are usually a foundation of financial aid, to which aid from other federal and nonfederal sources might be added.
Who may be eligible for Pell Grants?
The Federal Pell Grant is usually awarded to undergraduates who have a high degree of unmet financial need. Students whose families have a total income of up to $50,000 may be eligible for the need-based funding, though most Pell grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000. Your eligibility will be determined by the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education uses a standard formula, established by Congress, to evaluate the information you report when you apply for the FAFSA. After you’ve completed the financial aid application, you’ll receive a confirmation e-mail letting you know your application has been processed and providing you a link to your Student Aid Report, or SAR. You’ll also be able to view your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the number that determines your eligibility for federal grants, and how much you’re eligible for. From there, your information is also sent to the school or schools you indicated on your FAFSA.
How much money can I get?
The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2013-2014 award year is $5,635. The maximum can change yearly and depends on program funding. How much you get will depend not only on your EFC but also on your Cost of Attendance (COA), whether you’re a full-time or part-time student, and whether you attend school for a full academic year or less. You may receive only one Pell Grant in an award year, and you may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time. Most students will receive less than the maximum, but being eligible for a Pell Grant opens the door to most other federal grant programs.
How will I be awarded the money?
Your school may credit the Pell Grant funds to your school account, pay you directly (usually by check), or combine these methods. The school must tell you in writing how and when you’ll be paid, and how much you’ll be receiving in grant funding. Schools must pay you at least once per term (semester, trimester, or quarter). Schools that do not use formally defined terms must pay the student at least twice per academic year.
Can I receive a Pell Grant if I'm enrolled less than half-time?
Yes, if you’re otherwise eligible. You won’t receive as much funding as if you were enrolled full-time, but your school must disburse your Pell Grant funds in accordance with your enrollment status and can’t refuse you an award simply because you’re enrolled less than half-time.
The financial aid office at times can seem to be speaking a foreign language. But do not despair: We have a page detailing common financial aid acronyms from FAFSA to SAR, as well as additional information on federal grant programs and other forms of student aid.
Hopefully this information will help you in the process of applying for federal student aid. Your college’s financial aid administrator and your high school’s college counselor have resources that can help you if you find yourself confused or overwhelmed by the aid application process. Above all, don’t give up on federal aid: Many students who qualify don’t bother to apply, which effectively means they’re passing up free money for college. And when you’re paying for school, every additional dollar of financial aid helps.
- FAFSA and Other Daunting Financial Aid Acronyms
- FAFSA on the Web
- FAFSA on the Web Provides Speedy Financial Aid Processing
- Federal Grant Programs: Pell and FSEOG
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Perkins Loans
- Federal Student Financial Aid for College
- Federal Work Study
- FSEOG: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
- The FAFSA: New Year Means New Application
Latest College & Financial Aid News
February 21, 2017
by Susan Dutca
One Faculty Master is keeping his free cookie tradition strong for College House residents, even while he's on sabbatical. Every Wednesday at 10 p.m., freshman line up Master Dennis DeTurck's apartment for a sweet snack and the singing of show tunes. This is only one example of the many food-centric traditions found at the university. [...]
February 16, 2017
by Susan Dutca
Fighting crime is no easy task and is not meant for everyone. Careers in criminal justice aren't limited to police officers. You can study to be a criminal law paralegal, a crime lab analyst or even work for homeland security. If you plan to take this route, don't forget to apply for these solid scholarships to reduce debt while also doing your part to reduce crime: [...]
February 14, 2017
by Susan Dutca
Due to Oregon's $1.8 billion budget crisis, public university leaders want funding reallocated from the Promise program to the state's need-based grant, which is awarded to low-income students who attend Oregon's public universities. [...]