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Pell Grants

The federal government’s Pell Grant program has earned a good reputation among financial aid seekers over the years. The maximum amount of money awarded to individuals in recent school years is $5,775. This program, unlike some of the other federal financial aid programs, also guarantees funds to every student who qualifies.

Key Characteristics:

  • No payback is necessary
  • Source: Federal government
  • Deadline: Application must be received no later than the last workday of June

This program is specifically designed to help undergraduate students finance their education for up to six years of study without burdening them with a repayment plan. Nothing needs to be repaid to the government and there is no interest or fee to pay.



Student Financial Aid Sign Photo

 

How Do I Determine My Eligibility?

  • Your Pell Grant Index (PGI) number must be low enough to meet required need standards, as determined by the government; the number is found on your SAR
  • You must be attending school no less than half-time
  • You must be working on your first undergraduate degree
  • You must meet all application deadlines
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen

How Much Can I Get?

The maximum Pell grant for the 2015–16 award year (July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016) is $5,775.

For a little historical perspective, the average amount given out for the 2010-2011 school year was $3,828, according to figures reported by the U.S. Department of Education, the agency that oversees federal student aid programs. The maximum increased to $5,775 for the 2015-16 school year. All award money distributed is either credited to the student’s account or given as a direct distribution. Total award amounts depend on your PGI number, cost of education, and a variety of other factors.

Despite the increase in the maximum award amount, students still can’t rely on the federal government to solve all their tuition needs. The cost of college attendance is rising at a rapid pace while the availability of government grants isn’t keeping up with demand – not by a long shot.

TIP…Undergraduate students at some universities are automatically considered for a Pell Grant when they submit their FAFSA, which is used to apply for all types of Title IV financial aid – loans, Work-Study programs, and grants. Just make sure you get this form—and any subsequent forms that might be needed – completed and to your school’s financial aid office on time.

Getting Started

To apply for a Pell Grant, you must obtain and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can download the form by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA website at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov, or you can simply contact your school’s financial aid office. Be sure to send your application to the address on the form as soon after January 1 as possible. Missing the deadline means missing out on financial aid. Federal application processors generally want all forms in by the end of February. Call the Federal Financial Aid Information Center at (800) 4FED-AID for answers to any questions you might have, or see your financial aid adviser at your college.


When applying for federal aid, one of the first terms you should become familiar with is SAR, an acronym for Student Aid Report. (Be sure to review Chapter Seven: Filling Out Forms for more information on this.) All applicants requesting federal aid dollars will receive an SAR, telling them (1) whether they may receive a Pell Grant, (2) their Pell Grant Index number, (3) their Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) number, and (4) if they have failed to fill out the form correctly. The financial aid adviser at your college uses this report to help organize your aid package. Schools receive a set amount of funds per year for federal programs. Even if you are eligible for federal financial aid per your SAR, you may lose out on funding if you apply late or the processing of your SAR is held up. That’s because funds are typically distributed on a “first come, first served” basis. If you have additional questions on SAR processing, be sure to call the Student Aid Report Information Center at (319) 337-5665.

The college you are applying to may also ask that you complete a Financial Aid Profile form administered by the College Board/College Entrance Examination Board. This form helps streamline the entire aid application process.

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