Pell Grant: Everything You Need to Know
Although there are many different ways to find money for college, receiving a Federal Pell Grant for your education can be an excellent way to help lower your out-of-pocket costs. While a service member can find money for education with the GI Bill or Tuition Assistance, the Pell Grant can help children and spouses be able to to find some money for school too.
What Are Federal Pell Grants?
A Federal Pell Grant is money from the government for education that does not have to be repaid like a student loan has to be.
The amount of the Pell Grant changes year to year, the max for the 2022-2023 school year is $6,895.
The amount you will receive will depend on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC,) the cost of attendance, your status as a full-time or part-time student, as well as your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.
Sometimes you can receive up to 150% of your scheduled Pell Grant Award for the year. This would happen if you received some of the award in the fall, some in the spring and then you were eligible to receive some money in the summer. This is called, “year-round Pell.”
You can not receive the Pell Grant for more than 12 semesters, which is about six years. If you are going to be close to the limit, you will be notified.
How is the EFC calculated?
The EFC is an index number used to determine eligibility, and how much you will be able to receive with the Pell Grant. The EFC is calculated according to a formula that was established by law and considers your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits. You can read more about it on this EFC Formula page.
As an example, if the cost of your program is $6,895 or more, and your EFC was $5,501, you would receive $1,345.
What If You Had a Parent Who Died in Iraq or Afghanistan?
If your parent or your guardian was a member of the US Armed Forces and died because of their military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11, you might be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant funds if you were less than 24 years old, and enrolled in a college or career school at least part-time at the time of their death.
If you do qualify for this and were already eligible for the Pell Grant, your eligibility will be re-calculated as if your EFC was zero. Payments will be adjusted if you were enrolled less than full-time.
If you meet the requirements but aren’t eligible to receive a Pell Grant because your EFC is too high, you might be able to get an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Who Is Eligible to Receive a Federal Pell Grant?
Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.
There are some cases where a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program might be able to receive a Federal Pell Grant.
How Do You Apply For a Federal Pell Grant?
To apply for a Federal Pell Grant, you will need to submit your free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.) You will need to do this every year that you are going to go to school to stay eligible.
How Do You Receive the Money for the Federal Pell Grant?
Your school can apply Federal Pell Grant funds to your school costs, pay you directly, or a combination of the two.
You must maintain your status in an undergraduate course of study at a non-foreign school.
After you have earned a baccalaureate degree or your first professional degree, or if you have used up all 12 semesters of your eligibility, you are no longer able to receive a Federal Pell Grant.
Do I Have To Repay a Federal Pell Grant?
Usually, you would not have to repay a Federal Pell Grant, however, you would have to in these circumstances, if you:
- Withdrew early from the program that the grant was given to you for
- Changed your enrollment status that reduces your eligibility for the grant
- Received outside scholarships or grants that reduce your need for federal student aid
- Do not meet the requirements for the TEACH Grant service obligation
Although not everyone will be able to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, if you do qualify, it can be an excellent way to pay for your college education.
- DoD MOU: Everything You Need to Know
- Lessons Learned: Getting the Most from Your GI Bill
- FAFSA: What You Need To Know
About the author
Julie Provost is a freelance writer, blogger, and owner of Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life, a support blog for military spouses. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.