A college education can be very difficult for many low-income Americans to handle financially, and it’s part of why so many of them opt for community college rather than some more prestigious institutions.
In fact, the majority of Americans with a degree got it by taking out a loan to cover their education expenses, and some of them have kept paying this loan off for the rest of their careers.
Thankfully, other options are also available to those pursuing knowledge, some of which are financing options that don’t require applicants to pay them back at any time.
One of these options is the Pell Grant, which has been providing students with access to affordable education for decades on end, and you might just be able to benefit from it.
Keep reading to learn all there is to know about the Pell Grant and what you’ll have to do in order to use it to fund your education.
What is a Pell Grant
Similar to how a scholarship works, this grant encompasses an amount of money that’s awarded to a student which they’ll never have to pay back, so long as they respect the terms of the contract they sign.
The grant was named after the man who founded it, Claiborne Pell, who was the Senator of Rhode Island at the time and introduced it as part of his reform package for the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Even now, nearly 60 years later, it’s regarded as a core part of the FAFSA package for students, and it’s successfully provided thousands of low-to-middle-income students with access to high-quality educational opportunities.
More recently, the benefits from the program have been expanded in a way that allows students in prison to receive benefits and put themselves through education that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford.
How much money does the grant offer
If you adhere to the information provided by the Federal Student Aid Association, you’ll find that the Pell Grant awards up to $6,895 to students in the academic year of 2022/23, with the applicant’s financial situation greatly contributing to the actual amount they’ll receive.
Some additional factors include but aren’t limited to the time a student plans on spending at the designated educational institution as well as their enrolment status, seeing as the program differentiates between part-time and full-time students.
However, if you enroll in a summer or winter program in addition to the standard spring and fall programs universities have to offer, you can receive 150% of the benefits you’d normally receive.
On top of this, dependents of military personnel can qualify for additional funding should their parent/guardian pass away while on duty, although this is limited to candidates under the age of 24.
To determine whether you’re even eligible for benefits through the Pell Grant program, you’ll want to refer yourself to your college’s financial aid department, where they’ll figure out your FAFSA eligibility.
The administration will then go through a series of calculations where your family’s income will play a major role, ultimately deciding how much aid you’re qualified to receive, if any, which applies to a number of government-provided student loans, not just the Pell Grant.
The main requirements for the Pell Grant are the existence of a financial need, which is defined by having your EFC below $5,846 for this academic year.
This number is subject to change and will be adjusted accordingly as the economy fluctuates, making it so those impacted by the growing inflation rates are also given a chance at attaining higher education.
Another thing to note is that the program is only available to those applying to undergraduate programs while not have a bachelor’s or a professional degree from another program.
A lifetime restriction was also put in place, making it so you can receive money through the grant for a maximum of six years, which translates to 12 semesters at a higher education institution of your choice.
Applying for a Pell Grant
Submissions are open from October 1st every year and close on a predetermined date, although the deadlines can vary based on the state the student is applying from and the institution they’re aiming for.
Regardless of your status, you should try to apply for the program as soon as possible, as some of these awards work on a first come, first get served basis, although the Pell Grant specifically is portable, meaning that eligibility can be carried over to more than 6.5k colleges participating in the program.
You must also generate a FAFSA ID before applying for benefits, as well as gather a bundle of the necessary documentation for the application process, including your proof of citizenship, annual tax returns, and reports of bank account totals across all of your accounts.