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Pell Grant: Everything You Need to Know

By 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 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 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 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 29th, 2024
Pell Grant: Everything You Need to Know

As you look into funding options for college, you’ll notice one of the most ubiquitous sources of student aid to be the Pell Grant. But what is the Pell Grant, and how can it help you? In this guide, we’ll go over who offers the funds, who can receive it, and what it can be used for. We’ll also go over how much you can earn and a whole lot more. Let’s get into it!

Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

At a glance

The Pell Grant is a form of federal need-based aid awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. Students can use these funds towards educational expenses such as tuition, room and board, fees, textbooks, and more. Since it is a grant rather than a loan, students will not have to repay any of the funds from a Pell Grant.

How much is the Pell Grant worth?

The U.S. Department of Education uses the information on your FAFSA to determine your Pell Grant eligibility. Students can be eligible for anywhere between $740 and $7,395 as of the 2024-2025 school year. So, assuming this amount remained constant, and you qualified for the maximum amount every year, it could be worth up to $29,580 over the course of a four-year education.

Please be aware that the maximum Pell Grant award could change depending on Congress. We do our best to update financial aid information in a timely manner. Please check directly with the Federal Student Aid website for the most recent update.

Am I eligible for the Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is open to students who are:

  • Eligible for federal financial aid 
  • Enrolled in undergraduate programs in the U.S.
  • Must be a United States citizen or an eligible non-citizen

The U.S. Department of Education uses the information on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility. Due to new changes to the FAFSA, calculations for Pell Grant awards have changed. 

Instead of using your family’s income, expenses, and available assets (formerly known as the “Expected Family Contribution”), they will now use family size and household income and how those relate to the federal poverty line. For the 2024/2025 year and beyond, the Student Aid Index (SAI) will take the place of the EFC. With these changes, the Department of Education hopes to increase access to the Pell Grant so that more students can receive funding to complete their education. The best way to find out your Pell Grant eligibility is to fill out the FAFSA today and see where you stand.

Eligibility may fluctuate by year

Remember – the Pell Grant does not renew automatically. You’ll have to fill out the FAFSA every year in order to receive it. If your family’s financial situation changes in your following years of college, your eligibility may change as well.

As a result, you shouldn’t count on your first year grant to be equal to the next three years. Make sure that you plan accordingly in order to cultivate a secure financial situation.

Notes from a Pell Grant recipient

The combination of the Pell Grant and scholarships was the reason I was able to graduate from college debt free. Figuring out how to pay for college can be incredibly intimidating and feel impossible at times, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there really is always a way, and the Pell Grant is just one example of that. Don’t give up, even when things feel impossible!

Cait Williams

Scholarships360 Writer

Ohio University

How to apply for the Pell Grant

Applying for the Pell Grant is surprisingly convenient; you won’t have to fill out any additional applications as you are automatically considered upon completing the FAFSA. So, in order to apply and receive an almost-instant decision regarding your eligibility, all you have to do is fill out the FAFSA!

Even if you are not approaching your first year of college, you can fill out the FAFSA just to get an idea of whether you will be eligible. It is entirely free and the data you receive will be a good predictor of your future results.

Related: Do you have to pay back money from the FAFSA?

How is the Pell Grant distributed?

Typically, the federal government will distribute your Pell Grant directly to the college you are studying at. The funds will show up on your statement as a credit and no further action is required. It’s convenient and typically pretty seamless. If you find that the credit on your statement does not match up with your results from the FAFSA, make sure to contact your financial aid office immediately.

Related: How do I get my Pell Grant refund?

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • The Pell Grant is a grant available to all undergraduate students with demonstrated need who are studying at accredited institutions in the U.S.
  • You can receive up to $7,395 per year to put towards your education
  • Make sure to fill out the FAFSA in order to determine your eligibility
  • No matter your grades or what school you choose to attend, you can receive this grant
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about Pell Grants

Is there a lifetime limit for Pell Grant funds?

Students can only receive up to twelve terms (roughly six years) of Pell Grant funds. So, rather than a monetary limit, the grant imposes a limit on the total number of dispersals you can receive. Since most students graduate within eight terms, this is not typically an inhibitive limit. But it can affect students who decide to earn a second bachelor’s or dramatically change their field of study.

Can I use the Pell Grant for coding bootcamps?

Unfortunately, students cannot use Pell Grants for coding bootcamps. Since bootcamps are not accredited educational institutions, federal funds do not apply to them. However, there are a myriad of alternative funding sources to help pay for bootcamps, including income share agreements.

Can I use the Pell Grant for certificate programs?

This can vary on a case-by-case basis, so it’s always best to check with the school who is offering the program to know for sure whether you qualify. Typically, eligible students enroll in undergraduate educations simultaneously.

What is the minimum GPA for a Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant has no minimum GPA; it is a purely need-based grant! That means that as long as you demonstrate need through the FAFSA and have gained admission to a college, you will qualify.

Do I have to reapply for the Pell Grant?

Yes! Every year, you’ll have to fill out the FAFSA again for a Pell Grant for that year of education. Make sure that you fill out the FAFSA before your school’s deadline and the state’s deadline.

Can I receive a Pell Grant if I go to school out-of-state?

  Yes! As long as you are attending school in the United States, you can use a Pell Grant to help fund your education. It doesn’t matter which state you live in or which one you attend school in.

Can I use a Pell Grant to fund my semester abroad?

Typically, you can fund semesters abroad with a Pell Grant. As long as you are still technically enrolled at your college, you can use a Pell Grant to fund your education. However, some students unenroll from their college for the semesters during which they study abroad, and then transfer their credits into their university. If this is the case, you will not be able to use a Pell Grant for that semester.

Does the Pell Grant count as taxable income?

Luckily, the Pell Grant does not count as taxable income! So, you will not have to report it on your taxes and won’t have to pay taxes on any of the money received.

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