Pell Grants

The most widely available federally-funded education grant is the Federal Pell Grant.

Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduates pursuing their first bachelor’s degree, as well as participants in a limited number of continuing education programs (such as post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs). Unlike other forms of financial aid, a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid. A Pell Grant, therefore, is an ideal source of money, and many institutions treat it as the foundation for their financial aid packages.

A number of factors determine the amount of the grant, including the student’s expected family contribution (or EFC); the cost of attending a particular school; whether the student is enrolled full-time, three-quarter time, half-time, or less than half-time; and whether the student attends for one semester or a full academic year. Students cannot received grant money for more than one school at a time, nor can a student add classes in the middle of a semester and receive more grant money.

The method for determining a family’s EFC is set by Congress. According to the U.S. Department of Education website, the following elements are taken into account when determining a family’s EFC:

  • The student’s income and assets (if the student is independent) or the parents’ income and assets (if the student is dependent);
  • The family’s household size;
  • and the number of family members (excluding parents) currently attending post-secondary institutions.

The EFC is determined differently for dependent students, independent students without dependents, and independent students with dependents.

Depending on a school’s financial aid policy, the Pell Grant is either paid to the student directly (usually in the form of a check) or credited to the student’s account. Federal guidelines stipulate that a student must be paid at least once a term. For the 2009-10 school year, the maximum Pell Grant award is $5,350; for 2010-11, it’s $5,550. Once awarded, the school must inform the student in writing how much the award will be, how it will be paid, and when it will be paid.

Applying for the Pell Grant is relatively easy, but the surest way is for the student to speak with her school’s financial aid office. They will help the student fill out the requisite paperwork and notify her of her eligibility.

To learn more about the Federal Pell Grant program, contact the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information on pell grants, perhaps more specific to your personal needs, i’ve put together some more specific articles below:

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