Federal PELL Grants 101

The American Dream is changing. No longer are we seeking to leave our homes and work hard for a new life – we’re already here, and finding work to sustain our lives now requires a bachelor’s degree. If you’re a high school senior fretting about how you can possibly pay for college, here’s some good news: there are people out there who are willing to throw free money at you, just so that you can afford to join the educated workforce. One of those groups of people is the government, and they hand out thousands of dollars to students who have a high level of demonstrated need.

What is the Pell Grant?

Like scholarships, grants are gifts of money that do not have to ever be repaid. This makes federal grants far more competitive and far less generous than federal student loans. The Pell grant is a sum of money that the government is willing to pay your school each year so that you don’t have to. Usually, this grant is a foundation upon which all of the other financial aid that you qualify for is added to.


Education savings

Education savings

Am I eligible for a Pell Grant?

Eligibility for the Pell Grant is determined by the information you provide in your FAFSA. Based on a Congress-approved formula, the U.S. Department of Education will calculate your costs and your financial need. If your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is very low, then you are more likely to qualify for the Pell, as the grant is designed to help low-income undergraduates afford a college education.


You will receive notification on your eligibility after you complete the FAFSA and receive your Student Aid Report. Your school will also receive this report, and may award you additional scholarships based on your need.

Are you an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree? You’ve never been incarcerated or in jail, right? Do your parents make less than $50,000 a year? Have you filled out your FAFSA yet? If your answer to any of those questions is yes, then you are eligible. Qualification is a whole different beast – not all who are eligible qualify to receive the Pell. Again, your Student Aid Report will inform you of your status.


How much money can I get?

The answer to this question is a variable based on a myriad of different factors. Things like your demonstrated financial need, cost of attendance at your chosen institution, your status as a student (are you full-time or half-time?), and your future plans all play into the answer. The maximum amount you can receive as of the 2013-2014 school year is $5,635 per year for a total of 12 semesters – approximately 6 years of schooling. However, that amount will vary from year to year.

While it’s unlikely that you will receive the maximum aid, qualifying for the Pell Grant will often grant you access to other financial aid programs that can help you pay for college.

The changing dreams of the American people isn’t necessarily a tragic occurrence. The end of the picket-fence era heralds a new focus, a new understanding of the things that matter in this life. And yes… it’s entirely possible that armed with the knowledge gained through a college education, you will have the power you need to permanently alter this world for the better.

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