The government provides financial aid in the form of a Federal Pell Grant to students who can’t pay for college. First granted in 1965 by the Congress, the Federal Pell Grant didn’t receive its name until 1980. Before, it was part of the Higher Education Act. Later, it took the name of the senator overseeing its amendments. As of now, more than 20 billion dollars have been distributed among half as many students. Since only students enrolled at an institution that participates in the program may receive the grant, it is fortunate that 4,500 postsecondary educational centers do so. According to the rules governing this grant, the students should receive the money at least once per term.
Automatic Qualification – An Advantage for Students
The federal Pell Grant is provided based on financial need. The reason why so many students are considered eligible for it is because of the standardized measurement of the need for financial aid. As a student, if you fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form within the deadline indicated, you are automatically added to the pool of candidates eligible for the Pell Grant money.
Afterward, FAFSA will consider your candidacy by considering factors like your family’s expected financial contribution (EFC). If the EFC is lower than what it will cost you to attend college (COA), you could receive the grant.
While applying for the Pell grant, we’d recommend that recipients also look at other options to supplement the grant they receive on qualifying. Pell grant cannot cover the total cost of a college education. It will only stretch to a certain extent. Therefore, students should consider the Work-Study program to take them the rest of the way. While loans – even federal ones – should be your last resort, you could also win other federal government-based scholarships and grants.
Conditions for Financial Eligibility
Besides the prerequisite that you must complete your application, students must meet other requirements to qualify. Those include:
- Show of proof that you genuinely need financial assistance
- Legal authorization (from your guardians) that you can receive aid from the federal government
- Enrolment in one of the undergraduate degree programs in one of the participating institutions for at least part-time classes
- Satisfactory progress (academically)
Students with an Associate’s Degree but who are pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree are also eligible. However, you may want to look to finance your postgraduate education in other ways since Pell grant imposes many limitations in this regard.
Grounds for Disqualification
Just as you must meet the conditions to receive the grant, there are also actions that can disqualify you. We mention some below:
- Dropping courses at school
- Not meeting the GPA requirements set by your college – remember that individual institution may have varying standards
Lifetime Eligibility – A Double-Edged Condition
Another matter to consider is the limited lifetime eligibility rule. A student may not receive Pell funds for more than 12 semesters or six years. The limit used to be as high as 18, but the Department of Education reduced it in 2012.
While the Pell grant is a great opportunity, you may want to track your progress with respect to the lifetime limit. Say you are unable to complete your studies within the timeframe prescribed by the grant. It’d mean you cannot count on the government to rescue you!
We advise that students keep checking the amount they have been awarded and match it against the time limit regularly. The information is easily viewable once you log into your account.
Year-Round Pell and Lifetime Limitations
You’ll see another advantage in following your progress against the lifetime eligibility limitation in this section. After last year, students can also apply for a summer or year-round Pell award. However, you will only receive it if you haven’t exhausted your lifetime eligibility.
According to the rules of the grant, the year-round Pell may bestow 150 percent of your award to you during the summer semester. For instance, say you are enrolled in the spring and fall semesters and have won $4,000 for the whole year. Normally, you will receive $2,000 each semester to spend on studies. But the summer Pell makes you eligible for an additional $2,000 during the summer semester!
Applying for the Pell Grant
The applications for all financial aid from the federal government aren’t over for this year. You can still send yours in until June 30 of the next year. However, we advise that you do it sooner. Early applications increase the amount of aid money you can qualify for. Since the amount changes each year, you may want to confirm it. Moreover, you must reapply each year if you want to be a part of the pool eligible for any type of federal aid.
Pell Grant Award Estimations
Factors that could affect the award amount that you get include whether you intend to attend school full time or not. Deviating from it or leaving school before completing a full year can bring down the amount dramatically. Moreover, the personal costs that will need to be covered while you attend school will also alter the award amount. Similarly, if you have family members who can financially assist you – to some extent – you will get a smaller grant than someone who doesn’t.
As we mentioned, the amount of the grant may vary each year. However, you can estimate how much you stand to receive provided you qualify. For that, you can use the FAFSA4caster tool you will find on the Federal Student Aid site. You will have to put in your EFC, and the tool will calculate an amount.
Although, keep in the mind that forecaster won’t inform you of the aid that you may qualify for at different institutions. It also doesn’t show the options of state-based aid available to you. Finally, if you are eligible for work-study programs, the tool won’t display that either.
We’d recommend that you talk to one of our counselors to get complete information on the choices you can make. After all, they may define your future!