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What is a Federal Pell Grant?

Federal Pell Grants are awarded to students on the basis of financial need and do not have to be repaid. These grants are considered the foundation of federal financial aid, to which aid from other federal and non-federal sources might be added.

Generally, Pell Grants are only awarded to undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor's or graduate degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Pell Grant.)

How do I qualify?

The U.S. Department of Education uses a standard formula to evaluate the financial information you provide when you apply. You apply with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The formula produces an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number that is based on your family's financial situation -- your Student Aid Report (SAR) contains this number.

This number will determine if you're eligible for a Pell Grant and how much you can receive.

How much money can I get?

Pell Grant amounts depend on program funding and can change every year. The amount of other student aid you might qualify for does not affect your Pell Grant amount. You may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one college at a time. The maximum Pell Grant for the 2018-2019 award year is $6,095. The amount of your Pell Grant award will depend on the following:

  • your financial need
  • your cost of attending school
  • your student status (full-time or part-time)
  • your program's length of study (a full academic year or less)

You may be eligible for additional Pell Grant funds if your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. You must have been less than 24 years old and enrolled at least part-time in college or career school at the time of your parent's or guardian's death. Review whether you may also qualify for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant here.

Important notes: You may not receive Federal Pell Grants from more than one school at a time, nor are you eligible if you are incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution.

If I am eligible, how will I get the Pell Grant money?

Your school may credit the Pell Grant funds to your school account, pay you directly (usually by check) or combine these methods. The school must tell you in writing how and when you'll be paid, and how much your award will be.

Schools must pay you at least once per term (semester, trimester or quarter). Schools that do not use formally defined, traditional academic terms must pay you at least twice per academic year.

Can I receive a Federal Pell Grant if I am enrolled less than half time?

Yes, if you are otherwise eligible. You won't receive as much as if you were enrolled full time, but your school must disburse your Pell Grant funds in accordance with your enrollment status.

How can I get more information?

For more information on Student Financial Assistance Programs, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center:

Internet: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/pellNew window icon

Phone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

TTY: 1-800-730-8913

Spanish speakers are available (se habla español).