The murky waters of financial aid for college can be daunting waters to tread. There are so many options and so many hoops to jump through that it can be intimidating. Pell grants are one of those options, but what are they and how do they work?
What Is a Pell Grant?
A Pell grant is a form of financial aid provided by the federal government, usually to low income students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. In some cases, awards might be made to post-baccalaureate students pursuing advanced degrees in specific fields. Pell grants are not loans and do not have to be repaid at all. Other forms of financial aid can be combined with Pell grants to ease the cost of college tuition.
How Much Money Is Available?
The amount of money available to any individual student students but the maximum anyone can receive is $5,550. Some of the criteria used to determine the final amount are your status as either a full-time or part-time student, your financial need, the costs you have to pay to attend college, and whether or not you plan to attend school for a full year or not. Additionally, the full amount is guaranteed to any student who lost a parent in due to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept.11, 2001. To qualify for this military service condition, you must be under 24 years of age or enrolled in college on at least a part-time basis at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.
Currently, the award of two consecutive Pell grants may be made in a single year to speed up your degree process. You need to be enrolled a minimum of half-time in a program that results in either an associate or a bachelor’s degree.
How Do You Apply?
To apply for a Pell grant you will need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You will identify the college you are attending and all of your financial information in this application. The application is evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education. When the evaluation is completed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR indicates whether or not you are eligible for a Pell Grant and other requirement such as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) toward your education costs, if you are still considered dependent on your parents.
The current administration’s budget concerns are causing the Pell grant system to be evaluated for upcoming years. The parameters as outlined here are valid throughout June 2012.