Understanding Federal Pell Grant Eligibility Criteria (You May Be Surprised That You DO Qualify!)

Federal Pell Grant Eligibility Criteria

Many would-be students are wondering how they can afford to attend college these days. And the fact is that without student loans and grants, it would be almost impossible for the average person. Not everyone has a hundred thousand dollars saved up in advance to pay for a high quality education.

However, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your goal to earn a college degree.  Let’s look more closely at grant eligibility that may entitle you to receive financial aid– namely the Pell Grant program.

If you are thinking of going to college, or you are the parent of a college student, you might want to see if you qualify for any federal government grants.

One of the grants used the most often is the Pell Grant. However, to get student aid of this kind you must meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria.

The Pell Grant program helps assist students who are undergraduates, and who are from low income families. Please, don’t dismiss this thought without some follow through, so don’t count out this grant before filing the application.

Why? Because the fact is that even if you don’t qualify for the full amount, it doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for part of it. What you think is low income and what the government classifies as ‘low income’  may be two different things.

 Facts About Pell Grant Financial Aid


  • A Pell Grant is not a loan and does not have to be paid back
  • The maximum award for 2012 is $5,550
  • The amount you receive depends on your financial need and school cost
  • An application must be filled out to see if you qualify
  • Must have at least a GED or pass the ATB test (ability to benefit)*
  • (Or, have at least six credit hours completed)*
  • (Or, already be enrolled as a student working toward a degree)*

To fill out the Federal Pell Grant application you can find the Pell application here. Once you do this you are on your way to finding out if you qualify for Pell Grant financial aid. Student loans are important, and help many students to receive an education, but grants relieve the pressure of having to repay the money.

Some changes, to help people meet grant eligibility, happened in 2011. First, more of the previous years questions were skipped on the form, and applicants were allowed to make a higher income.

Secondly, a new regulation was established so that schools would have to disburse the Pell Grant funds by the seventh day of the school session. There is more information, in greater detail, about the Pell Grant on the government website.


Who Determines The Financial Need?


The financial need is determined by the U.S. Department of Education. Congress has given them a standard formula by which to evaluate the financial information that you supply on the application form.


This formula consists of the student’s income, the parent’s income, and assets. They also take into consideration the size of the family, and if any other children are attending post-secondary institutions. Once you have filled out your application you will soon receive a Student Aid Report, which will notify you if you are eligible.


Unusual Circumstances For Grant Application


There are some cases and instances where your financial aid can be revoked, however if you follow procedures you can usually get them back. For example, if you lost your aid because you were convicted of drug use, you can get aid restored if you pass two unannounced drug tests.

These test have to be administered by someone that uses the criteria established by the Department of Education. Also, if you were incarcerated for a sexual offense you can apply once you have completed a certain period of time.


Citizenship status is a problem for some students. You can contact the financial aid office at your school to see what your options are.


Even if you don’t feel you are eligible for the Pell Grant, be sure and fill out the grant application because you may be eligible for non federal aid from states and even some private institutions.


Using the Pell Grant Program For Online Universities


Many students today are getting their degrees by attending online universities.  Most universities are fully accredited and your degree will be accepted by all employers. The legislation for the Higher Education Act is the umbrella the Pell Grant falls under. As mentioned earlier, this money does not have to be paid back.


These grants helped over 5.4 million people with their school finances last year and seven of the schools awarded money were for-profit schools. It is reassuring to know that online universities such as the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and Kaplan University received almost two million in Pell Grant funds.


Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria may be a little strict as far as income goes, but the formula for selecting the applicants reaches a lot further than just income. Applying for a Pell Grant is just the first step in obtaining finances for your education.


Filling out and submitting the grant eligibility application is free and the income you submit will have certain allowances that will be subtracted from it. This will make your net assets lower than you may think, possibly helping you to be eligible.


In conclusion the essence of this article is to help you know where to find the grant application, and where to find the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria if you have questions this article doesn’t answer. Those two links are:


Free Application – http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

Facts/Criteria- http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html


Getting an education is more important than ever today because it’s those with a good education that get the best jobs that are available. When starting your search for student aid, start by applying for the Pell Grant. From there you can see what other types of grants you may qualify for. Don’t forget to also inquire about scholarship programs at the particular school and student loan programs to help fill any gaps in your finances.