Pell Grant Eligibility
About 9.4 million students attending institutions of higher learning in the United States obtained a Pell Grant between July of 2011 and June of 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office. These students were likely elated, as they won’t be required to pay back these funds when their educational experience has drawn to a close. But these students also had to jump through quite a few hoops in order to get a Pell Grant. Specifically, they had to be eligible for the grant, and sometimes, students just don’t meet those stringent requirements.
- Be a citizen of the United States, or meet specific requirements regarding citizenship
- Have a valid Social Security Number (in most cases)
- Register with the Selective Service, if the student is male and between the ages of 18 and 25
- Be accepted or enrolled in an eligible degree program or an eligible certificate program
- Progress academically in the programs they’ve chosen
These are the standardized requirements put out by the U.S. Department of Education, and students who want to obtain loans through this agency must be willing to document their compliance with these rules on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There’s no wiggle room here, as the form doesn’t allow for essay-type answers, but students who aren’t sure if they qualify can always ask a financial aid officer at the school in question for help, if something seems unclear.
Students who can meet the basic eligibility requirements might be in the queue to obtain a federal loan, but in order to access grant money that they won’t be required to pay back, they’ll need to demonstrate a significant amount of financial need. Grants are designed to assist only the neediest of students, so it’s vital for participants to demonstrate that they really need help in order to make a college education a reality.
There is no financial cutoff, in terms of eligibility, but students who do get Pell Grants typically face very high tuition bills and a very low household income. They may not make money on their own, and their families may not be able to contribute much to the student’s success. When a student’s tuition-to-income ratio is askew, a Pell Grant might be a possibility.
It’s important to note that family income statistics are required during the eligibility process. Parents may not want to pay for the child’s education, and parents may not even be living in the same household as the child, but the parental income is used in order to determine how needy a dependent child is, in terms of tuition. Even if a dependent child feels as though the parents will not pay, and that child feels quite poor as a result, eligibility will still be based on the financial health of the parents.