What is a Pell Grant, and How Do You Apply for One?

Pell Grant

As early as 1875, The New York Times published an article regarding the expensive education system in America. The cost of getting a degree has not gone down since then. By 2018, some sources reported that Americans were spending $30,000 per student every year, almost twice as much as other developed countries. It is, therefore, no wonder that students keep applying for financial aid to enable them to complete their studies. Pell Grant is among the options, so let’s tell you more about it and how to apply for one.

Pell Grant, the Legacy of Senator of Claiborne Pell

On January 1, 2009, the news of the death of former Senator of Rhode Island, Claiborne Pell, hit the headlines. Every media outlet focused on one of the biggest achievements in Pell’s political career – the creation of federal programs to provide financial support for the arts and humanities. Immediately after winning the first senate term in 1960, Pell sponsored the preparation of a two-volume statistical report that became the basis of creating the Basic Education Opportunity Grant (BEOG) in 1963. It was designed to help needy students attend college by providing financial aid. The Princeton alumnus once said that helping students meet the high cost of attending college was a cause dear to his heart because the G.I. Bill of Rights meant a lot to him. Therefore, in 1972 as colleges and universities sought more federal support for their institutions, Pell opposed the organizations representing the issue.

Since the G.I. Bill of Rights allows veterans to use the grant awarded to study in their school of choice, Pell wanted the needy students to be awarded federal support instead of the funds going to institutions. The programs wound up being named after the senator. According to Forbes, Pell Grant has, however, received some backlash as many high school graduates are being pressured to join institutions of higher learning yet they barely qualify academically. The Pell Grant is a need-based federal financial aid awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to enable eligible low-income students to pay their college expenses. It is the largest grant program the U.S. Department of Education offers undergraduate students and the most sought-after grant because it does not have to be repaid. In the 2015-16 academic year alone, Pell Grant offered over $28.5 billion to help 7.7 million students. However, you would be surprised that the percentage of costs covered by the Pell Grant has continued to decrease over time. In 1975, it covered 79% of the college cost, while in 2016, it only catered to 29% of the expenses in public four-year colleges.

Applying for a Pell Grant and Eligibility Criteria

According to Nitro College, you can only receive the Pell Grant after completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. It is the only way because the funding is received from the U.S. Department of Education, and once you qualify, you get the award letter in your mail, detailing the total Pell Grant award. You have to fill out the FAFSA every year you are in school to remain eligible, and eligibility is determined by the form you submit in the current award year. Upon completing your undergraduate studies, you are not eligible for a Pell Grant. However, there is no age limit to qualifying for the Pell Grant, but upon receiving your first professional degree, you become ineligible. Besides, you have to be prepared to work extra hard to complete your studies within the stipulated time because a Pell Grant only caters to a maximum of twelve academic terms, which equates to 6 academic years. Although filling out the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for the Pell Grant, eligibility is also determined by other factors.

Since it is financial aid for needy students, the Department of Education assesses your family’s income and expenses. It calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on your parents’ available assets and income. Therefore, as you fill out the FAFSA form, you will notice questions regarding the number of people in your household, number of family members in college, child support, and your school’s cost of attendance. Such information enables the Department of Education to calculate the EFC. There is a limit to how much it has to be for you to qualify. For the 2021-22 academic year, your EFC should not be more than $5,846. However, the amount you qualify for can be increased if your parent served in the U.S. Armed Forces and died due to military service while performing duties in Iraq or Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack. Also, if your parent or guardian was a public safety officer who died in the line of duty, you qualify for a larger Pell Grant. On the other hand, if you attend school part-time, the award will be reduced. Other criteria checked are having a valid Social Security Number, holding a high school diploma, GED or approved home-school certification, and being a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen with permanent residence. Additionally, any male between 18 and 25 years old must be registered with the Selective Service. You must have also been accepted in the degree program you are applying for financial aid before getting the Pell Grant.

Can a Pell Grant Be Revoked?

One user on Reddit was worried if the change in parent’s income caused the Pell Grant to be revoked. There are various reasons for revoking a Pell Grant, such as withdrawing from courses, failing to maintain enrolment status, and poor academic performance. There are also a certain number of credits you need per year to stay eligible for financial aid. Sometimes, the Pell Grant is not revoked, but it might be reduced based on several factors. For instance, reducing the number of credits can cause a reduction in the financial aid you are supposed to receive in a semester. However, some rules vary depending on the institution attended.

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