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All You Need to Know About Federal Pell Grant

Written by Shreya Berry

Shreya has expertise in writing engaging content for the readers and has a deep interest in unique applications of technology in various domains. She has worked closely on projects with Neil Patel Digital, Hindustan Times, News 18 and Shiksha.

December 9, 2020

Studying abroad can be an expensive proposition. As families weigh the affordability of top universities in the US, there are some avenues available to students that can significantly lower the high costs associated with studying abroad. One such relief option available to students is the Federal Pell Grant. This article speaks at length on how students can get their hands on the Pell Grant and live their dreams of attending a world class university. 

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Federal Pell Grant Meaning

The Pell Grant is a grant which is federally funded available to undergraduate students. Usually, it is awarded to students who display extraordinary needs depending on the family’s capacity to pay for college. This suggests that primary Federal Pell Grant recipients are usually students with low incomes.

The Pell Grant has traditionally been targeted at helping low-income students turn the dream of attending college into a reality. Naturally, attending college can seem like an impossibility in low-socioeconomic conditions. The purpose of the Pell Grant is to promote students who may have trouble paying for college in any capacity and then provide financial support.

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The Federal Pell Grant was responsible for rising college enrollment because it was attributed to improving student retention. They are more likely to attend and continue in college when students have the security of financial aid.

Expenses covered in Pell Grant

Pell Grants will help cover a variety of expenses for students:

  • Tuition and fees 
  • Books, materials, transport, and personal expenses
  • Expenses for living, such as room and board
  • Dependent treatment for a student with dependents (i.e., daycare)

The School’s financial Aid Administrator can give a proper analysis that Pell Grant can cover particular aspects of the education.  

Federal Pell Grant Eligibility

The Pell Grant is a unique form of student aid as the eligibility does not vary much across schools. In order to be eligible for a Pell Grant students must –

  • Prove exceptional financial need on the FAFSA.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.
  • Have not yet received a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree.

The Pell Grant is not available to graduate students, however, in some cases students seeking a post baccalaureate teacher certification may be eligible.

The following students are not eligible to a Pell Grant – 

  • Students who are incarcerated in a federal or state institution.
  • Students who are convicted of certain crimes.

Do note that students may lose their Pell Grant if they withdraw from their course, do not maintain their enrollment status or fail to make academic progress. Students need to also bear in mind that there is a new limit on the number of Pell Grant awards students that they can receive over the course of their lifetimes. This limit is set at six years or 12 semesters of awards. 

Federal Pell Grant Application

Students can be eligible for the Federal Pell Grant in the same way as any other form of financial support: by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is open for students to begin filling out, usually in the last months of the year. It is suggested that students complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, considering that most of the financial aid is allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The FAFSA, however, has an 18-month application period and can be submitted as late as June, the year after which it is published.

The FAFSA would inquire about both students and parents’ financial circumstances and use that data to assess the planned family contribution (EFC). Usually, the income and assets of a student, the income and assets of parents, the size of family households, and the number of family members attending college simultaneously are taken into account to assess the EFC. This is why completing the FAFSA every year is essential; any or all of the above circumstances can change within a given school year.

The student will receive a Student Assistance Report (SAR) after the EFC is decided, or the school will receive an Administrative Student Information Record (ISIR). When they qualify for a Pell Award, one of these will inform the student or the institution.

Federal Pell Grant Disbursement

According to studentaid.gov, the amount a student may receive in their Federal Pell Grant will change annually. However, the maximum amount a student will get is $6,345 for the 2020-21 award year. It should also be remembered that during their lifetime, there is a limited amount of Federal Pell Grant assistance that can be distributed per student. Federal legislation restricts it, as reported by studentaid.gov, to six years of Federal Pell Grant support over a student’s lifetime.

Just as the family’s financial conditions decide whether one can also qualify for the Pell Grant or not, they also govern exactly how much amount one can get. Besides, attendance costs, full- or part-time student status, and whether or not one expects to attend a full academic year are considered.

A student may be disbursed with the Pell Grant in several ways. Students have the option of Pell Grants going directly into their tuition bill.

Is there a need to repay the Pell Grant?

It is not necessary to repay the Pell Grant. Students should see it as a valuable source of assistance and recognize that it is just part of the larger financial aid image.

A student loan, which may need to be paid back, or the federal work-study program, which allows students to earn an hourly salary, could be other forms of assistance. We encourage all students to apply for financial aid and ask for help along the way since he has seen the Pell Grant affect first-hand and states that over time the government has raised the maximum reward.

Federal Pell Grant For International Students

Since international schools do not take part in the U.S. Department of Education’s grant programs, Federal Pell Grant for international students is not available. 

If students are looking for federal student loans to use at an international school, here’s how you do it.

The process is similar to applying for aid in the U.S – 

  • Go to the fafsa.gov website and fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible. The FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1 for school attendance that begins any time from July 1 of the following year through June of the year beyond that. There is no special FAFSA form for students planning to attend international schools.
  • Ensure that the school you plan to attend has your FAFSA information. Certain international schools can access your FAFSA information electronically. When you fill out the FAFSA form, list the school you plan to attend in the question about Federal School Codes. The website will allow you to search for your school’s Federal School Code. Once it is listed on your FAFSA form, your school can then download your data.
  • The next step will be told to you by your school. Different international schools proceed differently at this stage of the process. Find out all the important details from your school like – how you will get your loan money, what paperwork do you need to fill out, what are the key deadlines, etc. Make a list of everything you need and start ticking them off when completed. It is advisable to keep copies of all your important school documents and file them safely. If your parents plan to get a Direct PLUS Loan, they should keep a close eye on the required documents and deadlines as well. 
  • Lastly, if this is the first time you are borrowing federal funds as a first-year student then you will have to complete entrance counselling. These sessions entail reading text or watching videos online, or attending an in-person presentation, in order to learn about the responsibilities of taking out a loan. This entrance counselling might happen before you leave the U.S. or after you arrive at your school; again, it depends on the school.

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