College costs are soaring, making it more difficult for the average student to afford an education. By qualifying for a Pell Grant, you can get money for college that won’t need to be repaid, so you can focus on your education instead of your finances.
During the 2018-2019 school year, it’s estimated that the average student paid about $35,676 to attend a private college. Even at public colleges, in-state tuitions rose by two percent over the previous year, growing to $9,716 for undergraduate students in 2018-19.
As education costs continue to increase, more people are turning to the Department of Education’s Pell Grant program to help pay for college. With a Pell Grant, students in financial need can get money to put towards college expenses, and won’t be required to repay the grant later on down the road.
What is a Pell Grant?
Pell Grants are financial aid grants awarded by the Department of Education to students in serious financial need. Reserved for undergraduate students, as well as students enrolled in post-bachelor teacher certification programs, Pell Grants can help students earn up to $6,915 for 2019-2020 school year expenses.
Unlike other federal student loan repayment programs, Pell Grants don’t require students to repay any money awarded through the program, with a few exceptions. Reasons why a Pell Grant might need to be repaid include:
- You received a grant but left the program for which the grant was awarded
- Your enrollment status changed in a way that made you ineligible
- You accepted other grants or scholarships that reduced your financial need
- You didn’t meet the requirements of a TEACH Grant service agreement
Money received through a Pell Grant can be used for college tuition, fees, books, supplies and other living expenses such as room and board.
How to Qualify for a Pell Grant
As a need-based financial aid program, Pell Grants are awarded to students who demonstrate a strong financial need and meet other program requirements. While the maximum amount you can receive for the 2019-2020 school year is currently $6,915, how much you’re awarded depends on a few factors.
According to the Federal Student Aid website, the amount you can be awarded through a Pell Grant is based on:
- Your Expected Family Contribution (determined by your family’s income, assets, benefits, family size and number of children attending college)
- The cost of attending your chosen college
- Whether you’re a full-time or part-time student
- Your plans to attend school for a full academic year
Other requirements for Pell Grant eligibility include being a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, and earning a high school diploma, GED or completing a high school education program in an approved home school.
You can apply for a Pell Grant by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form located on the Federal Student Aid website. If approved, you will receive the full amount you’re eligible for based on the information you provided in your application.
How Pell Grants are Awarded
The Department of Education awards Pell Grants in your name directly to the college you’ll be attending. If you’ve been approved for a Pell Grant, your school will send you a financial award letter stating the amount you’re eligible for, in addition to other scholarships and grants you will be receiving.
In most cases, money received through a Pell Grant is automatically applied to tuition, fees and other expenses coming from your school. Any leftover money is then paid directly to you, the student.
Can You Get More than One Pell Grant?
Currently, you can be awarded a Pell Grant every year for up to 12 semesters as long as you remain eligible. However, once you earn a bachelor’s degree or a PhD, you will no longer be eligible for Pell Grant awards.
To ensure you maintain eligibility for Pell Grants each semester, you’ll need to continue your enrollment in undergraduate courses and fill out the FAFSA application every year. Additionally, you’ll need to meet the same need-based requirements established above by the Department of Education to continue receiving financial aid.