The Pell Grant Criteria You Must Pay Attention To

Written by Michael Bennet

The Pell Grant criteria that will allow you to gain eligibility during the upcoming academic terms is almost completely reliant on your ability to exhibit the appropriate level of financial need to the Department of Education.

The Pell Grant was initiated to benefit students who come from families that may have trouble paying for the total cost of attending college, and in this respect financial need stands out as the clear indicator of a family’s ability to contribute money towards their child’s education related expenses.

While there are other eligibility criteria for the Pell Grant that should of course be paid attention to as well, most of these items are requirements for all forms of federal student aid, and not just the Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant specific requirements besides financial need that must be met in order to qualify include your status as an undergraduate student, and your ability to stay out of prison. If you haven’t received your bachelor’s degree, and you are not currently serving time in a federal, or state penal institution then you should still have a shot at receiving this award if you can exhibit the appropriate level of financial need to the government.

What is Financial Need?

That being said, we now must take a look at how financial need is determined with regard to the Pell Grant. Financial need is a standardized financial aid indicator that is used by the Department of Education not just for the federal Pell Grant, but for other types of federal student aid as well, such as the Stafford Loan. This means that the same formulas will be used to calculate your level of need regardless of what type of federal aid that you may have set out to qualify for, and to begin this process you must complete the FAFSA.

Certain predefined formulas will utilize various pieces of information that you provided during the submission of your FAFSA when determining your level of financial need; including the following items:

  • The Income of the student (and assets if considered an independent)
  • The Income of the parents {and assets if the student is still a dependent}
  • The overall size of the household
  • Family members who may be attending postsecondary institutions

These four items encompass the most critical Pell Grant criteria that you must have on your radar if you are worried about being able to demonstrate an appropriate level of financial need in order to become eligible. Obviously the lower your income, the higher your level of need, and in general the bigger your family is, the higher your financial need should be.

If you have a big family with a high number of college enrollees, even better, as this is another area where the Department of Education will cut your family some slack if your parents are paying for a number of different college tuition costs.

Expected Family Contribution: EFC

Once all of this information is taken in after the successfully submission of your FAFSA an expected family contribution figure will be calculated. This EFC metric is supposed to stand as a clear indicator of the amount of money your family should be able to contribute towards your higher education, and to become eligible for the Pell Grant it must be below 4,995. This is the maximum cutoff threshold for the Pell Grant, and in order to qualify it must fall below this figure, bottom line.

The good news is that you will become eligible if it does without much exception as long as you satisfy the two other Pell Grant criteria with regard to eligibility, along with the assortment of other requirements that are in place for all federal student aid.

Just remember that the most important eligibility criteria for the Pell Grant involve financial need, which is almost completely determined via your level of income, and perhaps your parents if you are still a dependent. Check your Student Aid Report or SAR once you have completed your FAFSA in order to actually see what your EFC, financial need, and Pell Grant eligibility is for that school year.