Students have a number of sources they can use to fund their college education. From finding tuition-free colleges, academic or sport scholarships to state and federal financial aid, numerous options are available. One such option is the federal Pell Grant.
The Pell Grant is a need-based federal subsidy to students requesting financial aid. The Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 set forth foundations of the modern college financial aid program by giving low to middle income families assistance in the form of grants and low interest loans. Claiborne Pell, a senator from Rhode Island, led efforts to amend the HEA in 1972 in order to solidify and offer greater assistance to students in need.
The Pell Grant
Today, the Pell Grant forms the base level of financial aid for qualifying students. Once you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, you will be shown your expected family contribution (EFC). This will be used in addition to the cost of attendance and your status as a student. Using the table available on the Federal Student Aid site you can see what potential grant amounts would be for your situation. For example, if your tuition is $3500 and your EFC is $900, your grant amount would be $2700.
Because the federal government is subsidizing your grant, you will not need to pay it back except under special circumstances. For example, if you were to receive the grant for a full time student but later reduce the number of credits you are taking, you may have to repay a portion of the grant.
Keep in mind that there is a yearly limit for the Pell Grant. For example, the 2018-2019 maximum award was $6095. Because the Pell Grant is a foundational grant, the amount you qualify for will not be affected by other financial aid you receive unless it reduces your need for federal financial aid.
Pell Grant Constraints
There are a few requirements for you to continue receiving the Pell Grant throughout your school career. First – you must submit an up to date FAFSA each year. You must also remain enrolled in a U.S. school. You can qualify for the Pell Grant each year you are enrolled until you earn your bachelor’s degree or until you have claimed the grant for twelve semesters.
You must also meet your school’s requirements for making academic progress to remain eligible. This may vary from school to school, but in general you may need to maintain a certain GPA, take a certain number of credits each year and maintain good academic standing.
While Pell grants may be the most popular federal grant available, the government does offer other grants. This includes the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) and Iraq\Afghanistan Service grants.
The FSEOG is awarded to students with exceptional financial need and is prioritized for students who also receive the Pell grant. The grant amount will vary from $100 to $4000 per year but is based on the participating schools available funds. Not all eligible students will be awarded grant money and not all schools participate in the FSEOG program.
The TEACH program is aimed at students who wish to join the teaching profession. The grant can offer students up to several thousands of dollars, but the amount will vary year by year. Several constraints exist in that you must sign up for a TEACH-grant eligible program and maintain a good academic record.
Once you complete schooling, you must also agree to the “TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve”. The agreement stipulates that you must teach in a high-need field such as science, mathematics, special education and foreign language, and must work at a school that serves low-income families. If you do not fulfill the agreement, your grant will convert to a loan which you must pay back.
Lastly, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is offered to students who had a parent or guardian die as a result of military service performed in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Other criteria must be met, but students could earn up to the maximum Pell Grant award amount.
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