Pell Grant Eligibility EFC and Financial Need

Written by Michael Bennet

If you want to become eligible for the Pell Grant you must demonstrate the appropriate financial need. Because the Pell Grant was designed to benefit students that come from low-income families, the level of need that that must be exhibited to qualify is quite high.

Financial need as determined by the Department the Education is revealed in this equation.

  • Financial Need = Cost of Attendance (CoA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

By subtracting your expected family contribution from the cost of attendance of going to your particular institution you can arrive at your level of financial need. Financial need is supposed to serve as the amount of money you require in aid in order to attend a particular college or university, and the higher it is, the better your chances are at qualifying for a Pell Grant.

Cost of Attendance and EFC

So you are now probably wondering about the terms cost of attendance, and expected family contribution. Cost of attendance, or CoA, is simply the amount of money you need to come up with in order to attend a specific institution, and includes expenses such as tuition, room and board, books, and transportation costs.

It is standardized with your planned living situation, and the higher it is, the greater the likelihood you’ll be able to qualify for the full Pell Grant amount.

Expected family contribution is the government’s measurement of your household’s ability to contribute money towards you college education. It is calculated via information you provided when you completed your FAFSA, and is based upon several major factors.

  • Student’s income (and assets if independent)
  • Parents’ income (and assets if dependent)
  • Household size
  • Number of household members attending postsecondary institutions (excluding parents)
  • Other factors: Parents’ age, Parents’ employment status, other minor factors.

Once you have successfully submitted your FAFSA, the aforementioned data is inserted into a formula to produce your final EFC value. This is supposed to serve as a clear indicator of the amount of money you, and your family can put towards your education-related expenses, and to qualify for a Pell Grant it must be under 5,081.

If it is under this value you should be able to gain a positive Pell Grant eligibility status as long as you can satisfy the other requirements that are stipulated for both the Pell Grant, and other forms of federal student aid. The closer your EFC is to zero, the better your chances are at getting the full amount, with EFC values at zero almost always being able to get the full amount.

The Pell Grant Amount

The final Pell Grant amount you are able to qualify for will depend on your EFC, your CoA, your enrollment status, and your plans to attend college for a full academic year or not. Lower EFC values, and higher CoA values will result in larger awards due to the higher level of need that is present.

The final amount that you will be able to secure is then fractionally prorated in accordance with your enrollment status if you are taking class below what is considered to be a full-time basis.