What is a Federal Pell Grant?

Federal Pell Grants are awarded to students on the basis of financial need and do not have to be repaid. These grants are considered the foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other federal and non-federal sources might be added.

A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Generally, Pell Grants are only awarded to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor's or graduate degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant.)

How do I qualify?

The U.S. Department of Education uses a standard formula to evaluate the financial information you provide when you apply. You apply with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The formula produces an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number that is based on your family's financial situation -- your Student Aid Report (SAR) contains this number. This number will determine if you're eligible for a Pell Grant and how much you can receive.

How much money can I get?

Pell Grant amounts depend on program funding and can change every year. The amount of other student aid you might qualify for does not affect your Pell Grant amount. You may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one college at a time. The maximum Pell Grant for the 2013-2014 award year is $5,645. The amount of your Pell Grant award will depend on the following:

  • your EFC
  • your cost of attending school
  • your student status (full-time or part-time)
  • your program's length of study (a full academic year or less)

The amount of any other student aid you might qualify for does not affect your Pell Grant amount.

Students with a parent or guardian who died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, will receive the full amount. These students must be under 24 years old and at least part-time students at the time of the death. The 2011-2012 application makes special allowance for students (or parents) who have recently lost their jobs. If they indicate this on the form, an award may be given to them even if they would not have qualified based on their 2010 financial information. Beginning with the 2011-12 award year, you may receive only one Pell Grant award during a single award year.

You must be enrolled at least half-time and in a program that leads to an associate or bachelor's degree or certificate.

If I am eligible, how will I get the Pell Grant 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 your award will be. Schools must pay you at least once per term (semester, trimester or quarter).

Schools that do not use formally defined, traditional academic terms must pay you at least twice per academic year.

Can I receive a Federal Pell Grant if I am enrolled less than half time?

Yes, if you are otherwise eligible. You won't receive as much as if you were enrolled full time, but your school must disburse your Pell Grant funds in accordance with your enrollment status.

How can I get more information?

For more information on Student Financial Assistance Programs, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center:

Internet: http://studentaid.ed.gov

Phone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

TTY: 1-800-730-8913

Spanish speakers are available (se habla espanol).