It’s no secret that college is expensive.
The cost of tuition is at an all-time high, leaving parents and students anxious and concerned. The average cost of a bachelor’s degree is now upwards of $30,000; it’s no wonder that most families need assistance to afford a college education.
While pell grants, a form of financial aid, used to be strictly for very low-income families, they are now helping middle-class families as well.
Many students are eligible for a federal pell grant, which makes it worth it to apply even if you think your family’s income is too high.
Even if you are not awarded the total amount, anything you’re granted will be helpful and keep money in your family’s pocket.
Learn more about what a pell grant is, if you are eligible, how much you can receive, and what may improve your chances of being accepted.
What is a Pell Grant?
A pell grant is a federal educational grant, not a loan. This means that it is free money that does not need to be paid back, unlike private loans or other federal student aid. These are secured using a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
The United States Department of Education may issue pell grants to students who can display they have an exceptional financial need.
While loans are a great option for those unable to receive a pell grant, they often come with a high-interest rate and you’ll likely be paying them off for a significant amount of time.
Federal pell grants are typically only granted to undergraduate students and not those who have already completed a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
In rare cases, exceptions may be made. For instance, if a student is enrolled in certain post baccalaureate programs, such as the teacher certification program.
Many factors will determine if you’re eligible to receive a pell grant and how much will be awarded.
If you feel that you have a significant need, and meet any of the criteria below, a pell grant may be a better option than student loans, which would need to be repaid.
Who is Eligible for Pell Grants?
The first step in determining eligibility is to find the free application form.
To make applying easier and quicker, be sure to have the following information nearby:
- Driver’s Licenses number
- Social security number
- Bank statements
- Records of money you earned
- Federal income tax returns
- Records of untaxed income
- A federal student aid ID
- Your alien registration number, if you are not a US citizen
Depending on your current situation you may already have a good idea if you’ll be accepted or ineligible for a pell grant.
But be sure to pay attention to your state’s (or the the state of your desired school) deadlines for FAFSA applications. Typically, the earlier the better. This is also something that a college planning specialist can help you keep track of.
When determining your family’s level of need, the US Department of Education will use the student’s expected family contribution (EFC). A student’s efc is a measure of what they believe your family can contribute to help you with your college education.
Generally, the higher your EFC, the less financial aid you will receive. For instance, if your EFC comes back as zero, you can receive the maximum pell grant amount offered, whereas if your EFC comes back as $28,000, you would still receive the pell grant in a partial amount.
How Much Money Can You Get From Federal Pell Grants?
The amount you’re granted will depend on how much family can contribute to your education, the cost of attendance for the school or program, the student’s enrollment status (full-time or part-time), and if you plan to attend a full or partial academic year.
The maximum pell grant award you can recieve per year is $6,895, and the minimum is $650.
If your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, or died in the line of duty as a public safety officer, you may qualify for a larger grant.
If you’re a potential student whose parents died during these circumstances and are still not eligible for a pell grant, you might be able to get an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
How Can You Improve Your Chances of Getting a Pell Grant?
To improve your eligibility, it is essential to keep your grades up.
Most schools and grants have a minimum GPA that you must maintain. Even if you’re awarded the pell grant you’ll need to be a good student and make satisfactory academic progress.
You also want to apply for financial aid sooner rather than later. Applying too close to the deadline can decrease the amount of aid you receive.
Consider spending some of your savings on other educational expenses. If you need a computer, desk, or other items, buy them before applying for a pell grant. The less you have in your savings account, the more you may be awarded.
Parents are also encouraged to use their savings to pay off any outstanding debts, this will increase the amount you could be awarded.
Learn how and when to make appeals. Perhaps you weren’t eligible because your parent’s income was too high, but now only one is working. That would make you a good candidate for appealing. Or maybe, your parent received a one-time bonus at work which wasn’t considered when determining your family’s EFC.
Speak to College Planning Specialists
Reaching out to college planning specialists can help you learn more about grants, loans, and scholarships.
Even with the help of a pell grant, you may still have college expenses.
Fortunately, students have the opportunity to apply for as many types of aid as possible, and professionals are available to show them the way.
Doing your research may take time and patience, but it can save you and your family thousands of dollars in the long run.