Student Grants

Pell Grants

The Pell Grant was established in 1965 under the Higher Education Act of 1965. It was named after Claiborne Pell, who was a senator in Rhode Island from 1961-1997, making him the state’s longest serving senator.

Pell Grants are now one of the most widely-known grants for college students. Unlike other grants or loans, Pell Grants are considered gifts, so they are not required to be repaid. This is a needs-based grant offered by the government.

Pell Grant Differences

One of the differences that Pell Grants have over other types of government aid is that there is no limit on how many times you can apply for a Pell Grant as long as you meet the qualifications. You may not use the Pell Grant money for more than one school at a time, but they can be transferred from one school to another.

Qualifications for the Pell Grant

The main factor that is considered when you apply for a Pell Grant is financial need. The grant is specifically designed for those who have difficulties with their finances. To be qualified for a Pell Grant the Department of Education determines a formula based on the Expected Family Contribution or EFC.

The determining factors which decide if you can get a Pell Grant are your income and assets, the size of your family, and the number of family members who are enrolled in post secondary education. You cannot receive a Pell Grant if you owe your previous financial institution any money.

Grant Requirements

In order to receive a Pell Grant, you must be a U.S citizen, permanent resident, or an eligible non-citizen. An eligible non-citizen is an individual who is a U.S permanent resident with an Alien Registration Card, is a conditional permanent resident with an I-551C card, or has an Arrival Departure Record, which is an I-94, from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In the Record, it must designate that of a refugee, asylum granted, parole or Cuban-Haitian entrant.

To obtain a Pell Grant, you must also be engaged in undergraduate studies. You cannot have received a bachelor’s degree or other type of professional degree. If you are working toward a teacher certification program, then you are eligible to apply for the Pell Grant.

Another requirement to obtain the Pell Grant is that you must be enrolled in one of the secondary schools taking part in the grant. There are over 5,000 schools that offer the Pell Grant.

You have to have received a high school diploma or GED, and you cannot be in prison to be eligible for the grant. In addition, you cannot be behind on a federal student loan.

How to Apply for a Pell Grant

One of the first things that you need to do is apply early. Most of the time, Pell Grants are offered on a first come basis. Therefore, you need to submit your application as soon as possible. Online is probably the best way to apply. It is faster than regular mail.

You need to visit the Federal Student Aid or FAFSA website, which is You can begin your application there. The website has clear and precise instructions for you to follow. There are three sections on the FAFSA. The first one is entitled Before Beginning a FAFSA in which they give directions on how to accurately fill out the form.

It will tell you not only how to complete the form, but also how the financial aid is given, eligibility criteria, deadlines, documents required, and how to sign the form electronically. The second section is called Filling Out a FAFSA. This is where you can begin filling out the form. There is even a help button if you have any questions.

Filling out a Late FAFSA

If you run out of time, you can save the information and return to fill it out later. After signing the application, it will be submitted for processing. Processing will take two to three weeks. They will give you a personal identification number so you can access your information. The last section is entitled FAFSA Follow Up where you can check the status of your application. It is important to make sure that you are completely honest when filling out the FAFSA.

Make sure you report all income and assets. If you lie on this form, you could incur severe penalties including jail time. Even if you think that you might not qualify for the grant, go ahead and fill out the form anyway. It is a complex formula, so you never know if you might qualify.

The documents in which you will need in order to apply for a Pell Grant are a driver’s license, social security number, W-2 forms, bank statements, investments and debt papers, and income tax documents. Once your Federal Student Aid is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report or SAR. It will tell you what your Expected Family Contribution is and if you have qualified for a Pell Grant.

Hours Needed

There is not a standard rule of how many hours that you need to qualify for the Pell Grant. If you are full time, you will receive more money than if you are part time. In order to prevent students from signing up for so many hours and then dropping a class after the money is received, there is a rule that requires their established hours to be set on the last day of adding and dropping.

Therefore, it reduces cheating and dishonesty. If you drop some classes after you receive the money, you will be required to pay the money back. You can sign up for just one or two classes and then get a lesser amount in a Pell Grant.

Student Loans

There have been many technicalities put into effect by the Pell Grant. Some people say that students who are poor or have made bad financial decisions have taken advantage of this grant. You might ask whether your student loans count as income when applying for a Pell Grant.

The law is very clear that student loans do not count as income. When applying for a Pell Grant, it specifically states that it does not include student loans except those federally sponsored.

Online Students

You can still receive a Pell Grant if you are taking online courses. You just fill out your application the same way as other students do and go through the same process.

The online institution must be accredited by an approved accrediting agency. If you want to find a list of acceptable agencies, then you can go to the U.S Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation websites.


You normally can begin completing your FAFSA application on January 1. There is a long application period. It is highly encouraged for you to apply as soon as possible. States will vary on their deadlines. Some of the states require that your application be completed by February, March, or April, but January 1 is the best time to file your application.

People from both lower and middle class families try to get a Pell Grant, so it is important to get your application in early or the spots might be filled.

Amount of the Grant

The amount in which you will receive is dependent on several things. The main thing is the amount that the government believes that you can pay towards your college education. Another determining factor is the cost of attendance, which is a sum of all the costs involved in attending each specific school.

These costs comprise tuition, academic fees, and other charges, such as housing and transportation. They will also consider whether you are a full or part-time student. The amount of the grant changes from year to year, but the current Pell Grants are ranging from $400 to $5550. Individuals whose parents died because of military duties in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 are offered the maximum amount.

Those students must be under 24 years of age or enrolled at least part-time in a financial institution at the time of their parent’s death. You can receive the Pell Grant for up to 18 semesters.

How You Receive the Funds

It just depends on the school as to how you will get the money. Sometimes the school gives you the money directly and you can pay the bills. Other times the money is applied directly to the school. In some cases, you and your school make plans to pay some of the money straight to you and other funds directly to your bill.

Your school is required to notify you in writing as to how much your award will be and how and when you will be paid. If they do not have semesters, trimesters, or quarters, they must give out the money at least twice during the academic year.

What Can You Use the Money For?

Pell Grants are first used to pay your tuition. If you still have money remaining, the college will usually give you a check. Then you can use any remaining money for fees, books, supplies, or housing. The way you spend what is left over is up to you.

What if you Drop Out of School?

Once you are awarded a Pell Grant, you will receive the funds each semester or whatever was decided by your school. If you choose to drop out, then you will not receive the money for the next term. If you do not sign up for the next term, you will automatically lose your Pell Grant. Sometimes you might be asked to return unpaid balances. This means that if you stop going to classes, you might have to pay some money out of your pocket.

If you quit school, you will not be allowed to receive the Pell Grant. In some cases, you might be allowed to reapply if you resume school. Each case is different. If you choose to transfer schools in the middle of the semester, your money will not carry over. Your new school will decide how much money you will receive.

It might be more or it might be less than what you were previously receiving. The best thing to do is stay in school, and you will not have to worry about it.

Are Your Required to Re-Apply?

A Pell Grant is good for a year, which usually includes two semesters. However, each year you will need to re-apply for another Pell Grant. You cannot receive all of your grant money for the whole year. Most colleges are split into semesters or trimesters. An equal amount of money will be divided, so you will receive a certain amount each term.

Tax Implications

The IRS considers Pell Grants as a scholarship when filling out taxes. This grant is used to cover the cost of educational expenses, so it is tax free. Therefore, you are not required to file a tax return if the Pell Grant is the only income in which you get. You are not required to report any of the money that is used on your schooling.

Accredited Colleges

There are many types of colleges which participate in the Pell Grant program. Every college has information of their website as to whether they offer Pell Grants. It does not matter how long you are enrolled in the college. You can be in a 2 year, 4 year, or summer program. It does not matter as long as it leads to your having a diploma.

Unfortunately, because of the cost, not everyone gets to go to college. Sometimes your dreams are not accomplished because of financial reasons. Pell Grants offer a solution to be able to afford higher education.

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  • Reply darlene barajas September 20, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Hello my name is Darlene Barajas,

    I am majoring in Human Resources with a minor in Business administration. I am very excited for my future in this career yet I am also in need of money to pay for my college. I am attending the community college in my city and would love to transfer to the University. The University is too expensive for me to pay and I would have to quit school for a while in order to save up for tuition. I would like to not have to do that as I see people rarely return when they leave school. If I could continue my education without having to put a halt on it because of shortage of funds, that would be amazing. If there is anyway you could help me receive a pell grant that would be greatly appreciated.

    Darlene Barajas

    • Reply laurenwhite October 15, 2011 at 5:18 am

      just search to apply for the fafsa or go to the university that you are interested in and they will help. Good Luck

  • Reply sue labelle October 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    can a pell grant be used at a trade school or only just for colleges.?

  • Reply Cheryl January 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I have a question. If you receive a pell grant to attend a college in VA & you decide to move to another state, can it be transferred ? And if so, is there a waiting period as to how long you have to wait before transferring it to another school out of state ?


  • Reply Farkhod March 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Hello. If I graduate university but not in USA, can I get Pell Grant for learning english?
    Thank you

  • Reply kim griffiths March 18, 2012 at 8:08 am

    My 20 yr old daughter just got her GED. She struggled in school with a learning disability, and was held back 2 years finally to drop out. Glad she completed her GED. She will be taking the ACT test April 14 2012 . She is a beautiful talented smart young woman who desperately wants to move forward with a journalism degree. I am a single mother, I’m overwhelmed with how to help her, financially pay for college. Pell grant, scholarship, housing food transportation. Besides her being on her own with her personal challenges. Please any advise, info. Ect

    Sincerely Kimberly griffiths

  • Reply Sandra March 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I’m looking for another pell grant. I already have one through FASA and still have a some that has to be paid. I’m going to Everest for Medical Administrative Assistant and still need a little. Can anyone lead me in the right direction?

  • Reply Yashoda June 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I recently received an email stating that there is a limit to how many years you can receive a Pell Grant-which is 6yrs. Is this a fact?


    answer: “students receiving Pell Grants lose eligibility after 12 semesters, not 18 — including those already in the program who have passed the limit.” – source

  • Reply Debbie August 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    My daughter applied for Fafsa and are hoping to receive a grant. We were living with her grandfather who recently passed away. I am seperated from my husband. It is very difficult to obtain a student loan let alone a regular loan. Hope that she would be able to obtain a grant.
    Sincerely, Debbie

  • Reply evelyn August 27, 2012 at 4:02 am

    can my husband and I both get the pell grant?

  • Reply Deloris Ford December 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I Just recieve a pell grant and want to know that if i am a single parent does that a count for more pell grant and also how can go back to my pell grant and open it to see if i can put on my appication to add that i am a single parent.

  • Reply Connie May 23, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Why if you are an American citizen you can not get help to go to school without a hassle? My nephew is trying to fill out grant papers he’s 22 his parents are both worthless and have no contact with him. Mother on the streets don’t know where to find her, father in prison most of his life. My mother raised him and claimed him on taxes ect…. But she passed away 3yrs ago he has filed tax himself for the last 2years. Why must he go through getting his parents income information when he they do not support him. Should be from godazuma and then the government would send him to school free of charge and while there at it give a business to run. Mad at the whole mess

  • Reply Natalie S July 26, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    What about if the parents both work, but have had to file bankruptcy in the past 3 years?

  • Reply mary August 18, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Hi, I am waiting for leftover money from cosmetology school. Just because I asked about it frequently there playing mind games with me. How long does it take to get?

  • Reply April September 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Are Pell Grants available for Masters levels?

  • Reply John M POPPS October 16, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    My name is John Popps. I am needing information and help. I am 38 yrs. old and I have A disability I am on SSA and only receiving around 1100 a month. I have started school at TH Harris in Opelousas La I applied for a Pell grant and received it and it paid for my tuition and books but i have to fund my tools for diesel mechanics myself. I do not know what to do to come up with the money. I`m trying to go back to work I do not want to live on SSA. Please if someone knows of any grants or information to help me buy my tools please let me know at my email address I have no way of paying for these tools and am beside my self,on what to do. If you do not know of any way would you please pray for God to show me the way.

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