A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. (In some cases, however, a student enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might receive a Federal Pell Grant.) You are not eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant if you are incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution or are subject to an involuntary civil commitment upon completion of a period of incarceration for a forcible or nonforcible sexual offense.
Amounts can change yearly. For the 2016–17 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017), the maximum award is $5,815. The amount you get, though, will depend on
- your financial need,
- your cost of attendance,
- your status as a full-time or part-time student, and
- your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.
You may not receive Federal Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time.
Effective on July 1, 2012, you can receive the Federal Pell Grant for no more than 12 semesters or the equivalent (roughly six years). You’ll receive a notice if you’re getting close to your limit. If you have any questions, contact your financial aid office.
If you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, you’ll receive the full amount you qualify for—each school participating in the program receives enough funds each year from the U.S. Department of Education to pay the Federal Pell Grant amounts for all its eligible students. The amount of any other student aid for which you might qualify does not affect the amount of your Federal Pell Grant.
I heard I might get a larger Federal Pell Grant if my parent died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Is that right?
It depends. If your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. armed forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, you may be eligible for additional Federal Pell Grant funds if, at the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death, you were
- less than 24 years of age or
- enrolled in college or career school at least part-time.
If you meet these requirements and are eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant, your eligibility will be calculated as if your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) were zero. Payments are adjusted if you are enrolled less than full-time.
If you meet those requirements but aren’t eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant due to your EFC being too high, you might be able to get an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.
Your school can apply Federal Pell Grant funds to your school costs, pay you directly, or combine these methods. Learn more about how (and when) you’ll be paid.