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    How Do I Get My Pell Grant Refund?

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman Cait Williams By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman
    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    and Cait Williams
    Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Annie Trout
    Annie Trout

    Annie has spent the past 18+ years educating students about college admissions opportunities and coaching them through building a financial aid package. She has worked in college access and college admissions for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission/Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Austin Peay State University.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger
    Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 6th, 2024
    Photo of a man holding cash that he received as his Pell Grant refund

    Students who receive substantial private and institutional scholarships may be eligible for a Pell Grant refund. Any student who fills out the FAFSA is considered for the Pell Grant automatically. If your educational expenses are funded by other scholarships, you may be left with leftover Pell Grant funds. This results in a Pell Grant refund. Let’s discuss how you can get that money back and what you can do with it.

    What is the Pell Grant?

    The federal government offers Pell Grants to any student with demonstrated financial need. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 year is $7,395. Students do not need to repay the award, which differentiates it from federal loans. 

    Note that the maximum amount awarded through a Pell Grant can vary from year to year and individual students’ grants will be dependent on their Expected Family Contribution or EFC.

    Read more about: Pell Grant eligibility- do you qualify?

    Who receives a Pell Grant refund?

    The federal government distributes Pell Grant funds directly to your school. The school then has the authority to apply Pell Grant funds towards your tuition, fees, room, and board. For the vast majority of students, the entire Pell grant is applied towards these expenses. But if your expenses are less than the total of your Pell Grant, you are eligible for a refund. This may occur due to a hefty private or institutional scholarship.

    How do I receive my unused Pell Grant funds?

    Different institutions distribute Pell Grant funds at different times. They may distribute the funds at the beginning of the semester, at the end of the Add/Drop Period, or in installments throughout. They are typically distributed by the financial aid office. If you have any questions about the timing of your funds, reach out to your financial aid office. 

    How to spend your Pell Grant refund

    Your Pell Grant refund can be paid out directly to you once your institutional educational expenses are all paid. Once you’ve received the payment, you can choose to do whatever you’d like with it. However, you’ll get the best bang for your buck if you spend it on other educational expenses.

    Your Pell Grant refund will be exempt from taxes if you spend it on other educational expenses. These include: 

    • Books
    • A computer
    • Transportation
    • Other expenses directly related to your education

    Unless your scholarship also covers these costs, it’s a good idea to use your Pell Grant to pay for them. If you have to report your Pell Grant on your taxes, you’ll lose a substantial chunk of it.

    You can use your Pell Grant to pay off the principal of your student loans tax-free. However, if you use them to pay off interest, they will be considered taxable income. No matter which educational expense you choose, make sure to keep documentation of your spending. You’ll want to be able to prove that you can deduct your refund from your taxes.

    Don’t miss: How to complete this year’s FAFSA

    Breaking it down

    If you are eligible for a Pell Grant refund, you have done well in your college financing! Students receiving a Pell Grant refund must be paying less than $7.395 per year in expenses. Whether you accomplished this through private scholarships or an institutional prize, you are paying far less than the average student. You will receive your Pell Grant as a direct payment from your school. You can choose to do whatever you’d like with the money. But remember, you’ll have to report it on your taxes if you don’t use it for educational expenses.

    Learn more: Does a 529 Plan impact financial aid, including FAFSA?

    Next Steps

    Next Steps

    • If you think you should be receiving a Pell Grant refund, you should call your financial aid office
    • Simply because you received the Pell Grant does not mean you will receive a refund 
    • Each school may disperse their refunds at different times, which is why you should check with your school about their disbursement dates
    • A Pell Grant refund is a great way to pay for other additional educational expenses like a new laptop, transportation expenses, and textbooks

    Frequently asked questions about how to receive your Pell Grant refund

    How long does it take to get a Pell Grant refund?

    Financial aid funds may be dispersed at different times depending upon the college you attend. Some colleges prefer to disperse refunds at the end of a semester, while some will only wait until the end of the withdrawal/add date for classes. Speak with your school’s financial aid office directly to find out when your refund will be dispersed.

    How do I check the status of my Pell Grant refund?

    In order to check the status of your Pell Grant refund, you should contact your financial aid office. They should be able to tell you if you will receive a refund and when that refund will be given to you.

    Do you have to pay back a Pell Grant?

    A Pell Grant does not need to be repaid! A Pell Grant is not a loan, which means there is no interest and there is no expectation to pay it back. The amount you receive through the Pell Grant may vary depending on your level of need, but it will not exceed $7,395, which is the max amount you can receive during the 2023-2024 school year.


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