What Is A Pell Grant?

written by Robert Calhoun

What is a Pell Grant? This is the bedrock question that both students, and parents have about receiving this unique kind of financial aid instrument. In reality interested parties should be asking, “what is a federal Pell Grant”, as the Pell Grant is a federal grant that is provided to students who exhibit a significant financial need for funding to attend college. It is a grant, and therefore does not have to be paid back at any point subsequent to the reception of its proceeds, and because it is awarded on an annual basis, you can actually receive the Pell Grant for each year you are attending a postsecondary institution in the appropriate degree-oriented, undergraduate program. The maximum Pell Grant amount for the 2010-11 school year is now set at 5,500 dollars, and is scheduled to increase to 5,710 dollars for the 2011-12 school year.

The crucial thing that you must understand about the Pell Grant is that it is geared towards providing aid to students that come from lower-income families. You therefore need to be able to exhibit the appropriate financial need before you’ll be able to qualify for the grant, and the way this is determined by the Department of Education is via the EFC metric. The EFC is calculated when you fill out your Pell Grant application, more commonly referred to as the FAFSA. The FAFSA will not only put you in the running to receive a Pell Grant, but it will also put you in contention to receive other kinds of federal student aid, such as federal student loans. Once you have completed your FAFSA, some of the information that you provided is then used to determine your EFC, or expected family contribution.

Your EFC is supposed to act as a clear indicator of your family’s ability to provide you with money for your education related expenses, and it is the major factor you need to be conscious of if you want become eligible for the Pell Grant. The major factors that are used to calculate your EFC include your family’s size, the number of family members that are currently attending postsecondary institutions, your parents income (and assets if you are a dependent), and your income (and assets if you are an independent). Other factors that may play a role in evaluating your EFC include the age of your parents, whether or not they have paid their income taxes, and whether or not each parent works. To become eligible for the Pell Grant your EFC must fall below 4,617 for the 2010-11 school year, and the lower your EFC is, the better your chances are at receiving a considerable amount of aid by way of the Pell Grant.

Other factors are also considered when determining your Pell Grant eligibility, and some of the crucial ones that you should pay attention to include your status as a U.S. citizen, whether or not you have had difficulty paying back any previous federal aid, your academic progress in the appropriate degree-oriented program at your school, and your criminal record. Once you have satisfied the variety of these kinds of Pell Grant requirements in combination with having an EFC that is lower than the set cutoff threshold you should be able to become eligible to receive the Pell Grant. The actual amount you are then able to receive will be up to your school’s financial aid office, your EFC, and other factors such as your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance of going to your particular institution. If you are still asking yourself, “what is a Pell Grant?”, you should now proceed to seek advice from your financial aid counselor at school, as they are the final gatekeepers when it comes to this kind of financial aid.

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