Maximize Your Financial Aid: How to Get a Pell Grant Award
Pell Grants are funded by the United States Government for those who demonstrate a financial need for the funds. This is determined by comparing your Expected Financial Contribution (EFC) to the costs involved in attending the school you desire. During the 2013-2014 school year, MassResources reported that anyone with an EFC of more than $5,081 was ineligible for a Pell Grant.
Students awarded with Pell Grants stand to receive up to $5,815 per year to cover academic expenses. The amount one is awarded is on somewhat of a sliding scale, however. About.com notes that that the average award amount is around $3,800.
Of course, as they say, nothing in this world is free. While the funds you receive from your Pell Grant will never have to be paid back, and the amount is based heavily on your EFC, there are contingencies that you must cooperate with in order to be and remain eligible for the Pell Grant, such as:
- Meet the general federal student aid eligibility requirements
- Complete the FAFSA
- Be a U.S. citizen, non-eligible citizen, or U.S. National
- Males aged 18 to 25 must be willing to enroll with the Selective Service
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Be enrolled in a degree-seeking program at a college that accepts Pell Grants
- Your GPA must be considered to be satisfactory by the school you’re enrolled with
- Be working toward your first bachelor’s degree or specific professional degrees that allow for Pell Grant funding
Individuals with a history of jail time or drug offenses are far less likely to receive a Pell Grant. If you receive your Pell Grant and use it to pay for schooling and later drop out, you could be required to pay back those funds. If you start skipping classes or withdraw from a course altogether, you could be asked to give back some of the funding you were given. Dropping a class after the add/drop deadlines generally won’t hinder you unless you’re requesting it retroactively so that it isn’t on your academic record. Then, you’ll likely have to repay the total amount of funds you received. Dropping a class before the deadline is fine, but you should be aware that this will impact the amount you receive if you don’t enroll in another course to replace those credit hours.
Fortunately, you will not be required to give back any funds for failing a class — even if you do so repeatedly — as long as you’re attending class. You must be present for 60 percent of your classes, or you may be liable for paying back funds that were rendered for the percentage of course time you’ve missed, per The Nest. Students on a full scholarship are exempt from receiving a Pell Grant. Those with overdue federal aid bills or overpaid Pell Grants in their past generally fall into the same category.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers expects around 1,606,000 students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2014. If you’re a student and you find yourself in need of guidance in applying for a Pell Grant or ensuring you get as much federal funding as possible, we can help. The annual maximum amount a student can receive from a Pell Grant is expected to rise to $5,775 in the 2015-2016 academic year.