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    Pell Grants: What You Need To Know

    Undergraduate students with financial need may receive Pell grants to help with education costs. These award amounts vary, but as long as the student remains eligible, he or she doesn't have to repay it.
    By Ashley Norwood - Updated: March 10, 2017

    What You'll Learn

    • Who is and isn't eligible for Pell grants.
    • How much you can receive in Pell grants.
    • How long you can receive this type of aid.
    Benjamin Franklin on hundred dollar bill

    To help cover education and living expenses, the federal government awards Pell grants to undergraduate students with financial need. Like any grant, the Pell grant is free money—meaning you don't need to repay it. And that means you'll definitely want to take advantage of this funding option, if you're eligible.

    Who Is Eligible?

    Pell grants are available to undergraduate students who have high financial need. In addition, these students cannot have yet earned a bachelor's or a professional degree.

    You may also be eligible for a Pell grant if you are enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program. Eligible programs are for students who have already earned a bachelor's degree and are:

    • Certificate programs that do not lead to a graduate degree.
    • Treated as an undergraduate program.
    • Made up of courses required by a state for the student to receive a certification or license to teach in an elementary or secondary school in the state.

    Finally, eligible students cannot have their expected family contribution (EFC) exceed a certain amount. For the 2016-2017 academic year, that EFC is $5,234. For 2017-2018, this amount is $5,328.

    Who Is Not Eligible?

    You are not eligible for a Pell grant if you are:

    • A graduate student who is not enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program, as mentioned above.
    • In default on a federal Title IV student loan.
    • Incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution.
    • Subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a sexual offense.
    • Not a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.

    Incarcerated students may or may not be eligible for Pell grants, depending on certain criteria.

    How Do You Get A Pell Grant?

    Like any form of federal financial aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for a Pell grant. Your school will determine your eligibility, and if you qualify, the Pell grant amount will appear on your financial aid award. Your school will disburse the grant to your student account.

    How Much Can You Get In A Pell Grant?

    The maximum Pell award varies annually. For the 2016-2017 academic year, the maximum amount is $5,815. For 2017-2018, this amount is $5,920. However, how much you receive will depend on a few factors:

    • Your financial need
    • Your school's cost of attendance
    • Your enrollment status (full time or part time)
    • Your attendance (full academic year or less)

    How Long Can You Receive Pell Grants?

    You can receive Pell grants for up to 12 semesters while enrolled full time or the equivalent to 6 years of full-time enrollment, depending on how your terms are defined and if you attend all semesters in an academic year. If that sounds confusing, don't worry: You'll receive a notice if you are getting close to your maximum amount.

    Can Children Of Deceased Veterans Receive A Larger Pell Grant?

    What a very specific question!

    Children with these circumstances cannot receive a larger Pell grant; however, they will get the maximum award each year, provided they meet certain qualifications.

    First, you must be Pell eligible. In addition, your parent or guardian must have been a member of the U.S. military who died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11 while you were either:

    • Under 24 years old.
    • Enrolled in college or career-school at least part time.

    If you are enrolled less than full time, your award will be adjusted accordingly.

    Por Ashley Norwood - Actualizado: 10 marzo 2017
    Benjamin Franklin on hundred dollar bill
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