What Is a Federal Pell Grant

A basic guide to Federal Pell Grants

Paying for a collegePellGrants_Featured education typically requires pooling money from a variety of sources like scholarships, loans, savings accounts, financial aid packages and work study programs, just to name a few. One excellent source of funding for those who qualify is a Federal Pell Grant. Here is some basic information to help you understand how these work.

Typically, Pell Grants are only awarded to undergraduate students who haven’t earned a professional degree or bachelor’s degree. There are certain cases, however, where it is possible to receive a Federal Pell Grant if you are a student enrolled in a post baccalaureate teacher certification program. There are several other restrictions on who can receive these grants. People who are incarcerated in a state or federal penal institution are not eligible, and neither are people subject to certain types of involuntary civil commitments after incarceration.

The most exciting part of a Federal Pell Grant is that it is not a loan and therefore does not have to be paid back. For the 2015-2016 award year, which ends June 30, 2016, the maximum award is $5,775. This maximum is subject to change yearly, and you can’t receive Federal Pell Grant funds for multiple schools at one time.

If you do receive a Pell Grant, you will not necessarily receive that maximum. The amount you get depends on your financial need, but it is not impacted by how much student aid you qualify for through other programs. It also depends on the cost of attendance at your school, whether you are a part-time or a full-time student and whether you will be attending school for a full academic year or less. Every school that participates in this federal program gets sufficient funding from the U.S. Department of Education each year to give the right amount to all of its eligible students.

It is also possible that you could qualify for a larger grant if you had a military parent who died during combat in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“If your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, you may be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant funds if, at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death, you were less than 24 years of age or enrolled in college or career school at least part time,” according to the website of Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Although this federal program is designed to help low-income students, it can be hard to predict your own eligibility. So even if you fear that your income is too high to qualify, it is important to look into the program.

“For the majority of Americans who don’t think they qualify for Federal Pell Grants, the federal grant known for helping low-income students, it’s easy for them to think that financial aid beyond student loans won’t happen for them,” states Reyna Gobel, contributor to Forbes. “Thus, they may skip filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) out of fear it’s just a fast track to student loans. But that’s just not the case.”

Therefore, it is important to fill out an application to ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the potential sources of income to pay for college. Even if you do not end up qualifying, your application helps provide data that makes the program run smoothly.

“Not only will filling out the FAFSA provide information to schools to help students get other need-based scholarships and grants, but middle class families may qualify for Pell Grants without realizing it,” states Gobel.

A change that went into effect on July 1, 2012, stipulated that it was only possible to obtain funding from a Pell Grant for a maximum of 12 semesters. That is equivalent to roughly six years of school. You don’t have to worry about reaching that limit without being aware, however, because you will receive a notice if you are getting close.

Federal Pell Grants are a great source of funding for students and their families, making the application process well worth it. You can learn more about completing the FAFSA application at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out.

If you have any questions concerning student loans or are looking for other ways to help finance college, be sure to stop by today.

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