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Instated by the federal government to make attending postsecondary schools more readily accessible for low-income students, the Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based funds to undergraduate students. There are plenty of questions to be answered about the program and its eligibility requirements, application process, payments and more, so below are some of the most commonly inquired about subjects in the program.

Who is eligible for Federal Pell Grant Funds?

Undergraduate or vocational students who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. Certain individuals enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might also be eligible. All students must also meet the Basic Eligibility Criteria for federal student aid and be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a participating school.

Is a certain GPA required?

No, Federal Pell Grants are not merit-based. However, you must comply with your school’s standards for satisfactory academic progress toward a degree in order to maintain eligibility.

How can I apply for a Federal Pell Grant?

Fill out the FAFSA, a free application that is used to apply for federal student aid. It evaluates your financial need and status.

What is the FAFSA and what does it determine?

Using the information you provide, the FAFSA will calculate your Expected Family Contribution, which is an index number that will measure your family’s financial strength and ability to pay for college. It’s the most significant number in the financial aid process as it’s used in determining the amount of need-based aid you can receive.

How is my Financial Need Determined?

To calculate your Financial Need, the school will subtract your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the school’s Cost of Attendance (COA). That number is your Financial Need and will determine the amount of money you can receive. Although the COA might differ from school to school, your EFC will not change. 

How much money can I get from the Federal Pell Grant program?

The amount of money awarded depends on your Financial Need. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the maximum award amount is $5,775. The minimum is $588.

Who determines the award amount that I receive from a Federal Pell Grant?

Using a formula that factors in your EFC, COA and enrollment status as a full-time or part-time student, your college or career school will determine the amount of money awarded to you through Federal Pell Grant funds.

How will my Federal Pell Grant money be disbursed?

The financial aid office at your college or university will disburse money either directly to you, credit funds to your account or use a combination of both.

What are Pell Grants?

Pell Grants are federal aid awarded to qualified undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. Although these grants are typically reserved for undergraduates, some students enrolled in teacher certification programs may also be eligible for Pell Grants.

How do I get a Pell Grant?

Students must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to be considered for a Pell Grant. Schools participating in the federal Pell Grant program receive federal funds to disburse to their Pell recipients each year.

Does everyone get a Pell Grant?

No. Pell Grant recipients must demonstrate financial need and be enrolled in a qualifying program. Graduate students are not typically eligible for Pell Grant aid.

What's the maximum amount that I can receive in Pell Grant funding?

The limit adjusts annually, changing on July 1 of each year. Recent Pell maximums have hovered around the high $5,000s. While there's no lifetime dollar limit for Pells, students can receive these grants for no longer than 12 full-time semesters – about six academic years – before eligibility expires.

How do I know whether I'll qualify for the maximum Pell amount?

How much a student receives depends on a federal calculation, which factors in a student's expected family contribution and enrollment status, among other considerations. Students can head to the federal FAFSA4caster to input their family's information and get a estimate of how much they'll receive.

How much will a Pell Grant help me pay for tuition at my school?

How far a Pell Grant goes depends on the cost of the institution that the student attends. At a higher-cost private institution, a Pell may not go far. But at a community college, a grant may cover tuition, fees, books and supplies. In fact, a U.S. News ​analysis found that the maximum 2013-2014 Pell Grant covered tuition, fees, books and supplies at 69 percent of the 936 community colleges for which U.S. News had college cost​ data. 

Does money from the Pell program need to be repaid?

Unlike federal loans, Pell Grants do not require repayment. That makes them one of the most generous types of federal aid available.

Are there other federal grants in addition to the Pell Grant?

There are other federal programs that offer grants to qualifying students, including the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, for needy students at participating schools, and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant, called TEACH, for aspiring teachers.

How does attending college part-time affect my Pell eligibility?

Students who attend college part-time may receive less Pell aid than they would as a full-time student that year. For example, a full-time student who qualifies for $5,000 in Pell aid could receive $2,500 when attending half time. A student attending on a quarter schedule may receive one-fourth their total eligibility, or $1,250.

How do I become ineligible for Pell Grants?

One way to become ineligible is to use up the 12 semesters of academic eligibility. Students who are incarcerated in a federal or state institution or convicted of certain crimes are currently not eligible for Pell.