- The Pell program helps low-income college students earn a degree.Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Digital Vision/Getty Images
The Pell Grant is a need-based federal grant program for undergraduate college students. Since it is a grant, the money doesn't have to be paid back, which makes it an appealing first choice when it comes to securing financial aid in pursuit of a bachelor's degree. With the continued increase in college tuition and fees, it makes sense to explore Pell Grant opportunities even if you think there's only a slim chance you will be eligible.
Expected Family Contribution
- The first step of the Pell eligibility process is to establish what is called your Expected Family Contribution, which is a determination of how much money you and your family (if you're still a dependent) can contribute to educational expenses. The United States Department of Education calculates your EFC based on financial information gathered through the Pell application. According to the PellGrantEligibility website, critical factors include your parents' income and assets (if you're dependent), your income and assets (if you're independent), the size of your household, how many are attending college, parent(s) age, whether or not they work and their income tax status from the previous year.
- While it's difficult to pin down exactly whether or not you will get a Pell Grant based on a certain amount of income, there are some statistical indicators. In general, Pell money is offered to those making less than $30,000 a year. Depending on other factors, students with families who earn from $30,000 to $60,000 might or might not receive a Pell. Earning more than $60,000 makes it unlikely you'll get the money, as the grants are intended to help low-income families attend college. To pass the first major qualification threshold, your EFC will need to fall below $4,617.
- Once financial need has been established through the EFC, the Pell Grant program will look at additional screening criteria such as United States citizenship, possession of a high school diploma or GED and a valid Social Security Number. Males of the appropriate age should be registered with Selective Service. You should also be enrolled and making academic progress at a college that participates in the Pell Grant program. The presence of federal loan defaults or Pell overpayment from previous semesters might disqualify you from further aid. Grants will also be suspended if you have all of your educational expenses covered by other scholarships. Other disqualifying factors include certain criminal offenses resulting in jail time or drug convictions.