The Most Critical Aspects of the Federal Pell Grant Award

Written by Michael Bennet

The Pell Grant award is the most popular educational grant is existence today, and currently between 11 and 12 percent of undergraduate students receive this grant as part of their financial aid package. It was originally implemented to help give students with an exceptional level of financial need the opportunity to pay for college without having to go into tremendous amounts of debt.

Over the years students with such a financial need have indeed taken advantage of the Pell Grant, and it has become a staple financial aid instrument for millions of students from across the nation. While the cost of attending college continues to rise at an alarming rate each year, the Pell Grant can still put a fairly significant dent in this cost if students are able to get the full amount, which is now set at 5,645 dollars.

Students are only able to receive a Pell Grant from one institution at a time, and they can only receive one Pell Grant award each school year.

Gauging Eligibility for the Pell Grant Award

Students can get a general idea of their Pell Grant eligibility status by first evaluating whether or not they are still a dependent. This is critical because if the student is considered to be an independent then they will have a MUCH easier time becoming eligible, as they WON’T have to provide their parents’ financial information when they complete their FAFSA.

This can make getting the Pell Grant award a virtual snap because it is based so heavily on financial need, which is heavily based on income. Most college students don’t have a significant income or any assets, and therefore applying as an independent can even allow the student who comes from an upper-class family an opportunity to qualify. Financial need is measured by the Department of Education mostly by the expected family contribution, which must be below 4,995 in order to become eligible.

While other eligibility factors still apply beyond what it takes to demonstrate the appropriate level of financial need, having an EFC that is below 5,081 will almost guarantee that a student will be able to qualify for the Pell Grant. Students who are still considered to be dependents must still provide their parents’ financial information when they submit their FAFSA, and will therefore need to come from a family that may have trouble contributing money towards the cost of their higher education.