Pell Grants, in Plain English | 03.08.10

Posted in FAFSA, Financial Aid By Student Loan Network Staff

The Pell Grant is an excellent award set up for financially needy students to help afford the cost of college. It is maintained by the federal government, and acts differently than other financial aid offerings.

How does a Pell Grant work?

Pell Grants are based entirely off of the information presented on a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form. They are meant for low-income students, and do not need to be repaid unless the student drops out of their degree program. One additional criteria to qualify for a Pell Grant is that the student must be pursuing his or her first bachelors degree. This means that if you are going back to school for another bachelors or are taking classes casually, you will not qualify for a Pell Grant.

In addition, your school must participate in the Direct Loan or FFEL programs for you to qualify for a Pell Grant. Check with your school’s financial aid department to see if they are approved to receive Pell Grants for their students.

Pell Grant Awards

For the 2010-11 academic year (Fall 2010 to Spring 2011), the maximum you can receive through a Pell Grant award is set at $5,350. As I said before, your individual award is largely based on the information presented in your FAFSA, but also on the total cost of attendance reported by your school. To receive the most you can from the program, you ideally want to show low family income and high cost of attendance at your chosen college.

Because of these very strict requirements, the Pell Grant is typically only seen in the aid reports of very financially-needy students. If you are an independent, low-income student, the chances of receiving one of these awards is much better than if you were reporting the income of family members on your FAFSA as well.

This can be tricky for most students, as you are forced to include your parents’ income on your FAFSA until you are 24 years old. However, if you live apart from your family, don’t have a relationship with them, and support yourself, you can legally emancipate yourself to greatly boost how much need-based financial aid you receive (assuming you are low-income, yourself.) I personally would not recommend this, but if you are in a dire enough situation that you desperately need the financial aid, a legal emancipation will strip away your parents’ ability to report you on their taxes, and therefore lower your income for the purposes of filing your FAFSA and receiving more need-based aid.


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9 Responses to “Pell Grants, in Plain English”

  1. john gadsby says on January 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm:

    i was late returning a rental book from fall 11 class, i tried to bring it back after the due date and was told that they already took 93 dollars from my spring 12 pell money to pay for it, is this legel of the school to do this? there was no mention of taking pell money, only that a hold would be put on you

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  2. Marie says on April 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm:

    I legally have (had now) full physical and legal custody of my son, and per divorce decree the right to claim for tax deductions. He went to live with his dad during high school in order to be in a higher league sports team to enhance his opportunities for a sports scholarship. On the FAFSA it says to list the income of the parent he “lived with”. On the initial FAFSA for his first year, his father listed his income because he “stayed with” him while in high school and he was determined ineligible for financial aid. However he had a full scholarship until now. He no longer has any assistance for college. My question is- Can he now file for this year’s FAFSA using my income and parental information? His permenant address is mine, but lives off campus near the university, is under 24, and does not work.

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  3. tom says on January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm:

    a person i know kept the money and never went to school.is this legal

    Reply To This Comment
  4. tim says on April 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm:

    can i still get a pell grant even though i owe state income tax?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Evan Jacobs says on April 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm:

      It is only based on your household size and income, so most likely yes if you meet those requirements.

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  5. Pam says on March 20, 2010 at 11:00 pm:

    Does anyone know what the full amount will be for the grant being offered for summer 2010?

    Reply To This Comment
    • Lori says on August 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm:

      Summer does not specifically get paid. You get 1/2 in the fall and 1/2 in the spring. You must be disciplined to save some for summer.

      Reply To This Comment

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