Pell Grants

The federal government in the United States offers a variety of college grants to ensure that as many students as possible can complete their studies – regardless of their financial situation. One of the most popular college grants is the Pell Grant, which we look at in more detail in today’s guide.

What are Pell Grants?

Pell Grants is a college grant offered by the United States federal government to help students who need financial aid to be able to attend college or university. A Pell Grant is considered by many to be the first type of college grant that students from low-income families should apply for and then they can apply for other college grants to complement it if necessary.

This type of grant does not need to be repaid after graduation and students may use Pell Grants at one of around 5,400 different tertiary educational institutions. Each year around 5.4 million full-time and part-time college and university students are awarded Pell Grants to help them afford their studies.

History of Pell Grants

The Pell Grant has been through numerous changes before it became what it is today. The grants were first made legislation in 1965 when they were signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. At the start it was called the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), but was later called the Pell Grant named after Senator Claiborne Pell who was a major initiator in the major reforms that happened to the grants in 1972.

Who is eligible for Pell Grants?

To be eligible for a Pell Grant you must be able to demonstrate true financial need and they are limited to those who have not earned a Bachelor’s degree before. You may also not be eligible for a Pell Grant if you are enrolled in certain post-baccalaureate programs. Pell Grants are sponsored by the United States Department of Education and it is through this department that students are assessed for their eligibility in terms of financial need.

To assess your eligibility the department uses a complicated formula that incorporates all of the information you have submitted to them in your application form. The formula produces a number that is called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), depending on what number you get will determine your eligibility.

You may not be eligible for a Pell Grant if you have had a drug conviction during the time that you were receiving federal student aid. However, your eligibility will largely depend on your own personal circumstances and if you are shown to have taken good steps to remedy your conviction you may have your financial aid reinstated.

How much are Pell Grants

Pell Grants aren’t set at a specific amount, instead they assess you for your financial need and award you accordingly. In 2011, new changes came into place that decreased the maximum amount that could be awarded by a Pell Grant.

For the 2011-2012 school year, the maximum amount that can be awarded for students who are most in need was decreased from $5,500 to $4,705 per year. The amount you are awarded will not only take into account your financial needs but also the cost of tuition, fees and board costs that will vary between universities and colleges.

Applying for Pell Grants

The first stage of applying for a Pell Grant is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which both the applicant and their family must complete. This form must be completed prior to the students first year of study and then updated each year as they progress through college or university.

Some of the information that is required to be included in the form includes parents or guardian income, grades, financial need and other information that will help them determine your financial need. The form must be completed or updated on or after July 1st each year. You can complete and submit the form online or you can ask for a paper application form from your high school counselor.

You will be notified by email or regular post (whichever you specified on your form) whether or not you have been awarded a Pell Grant. You should keep a copy of your confirmation form in case you are asked to provide it.

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