Finding Pell Grants in your state means determining your eligibility and finding out whether you qualify for federally-based grants. A Pell Grant is a federally funded grant, which does not require repayment by the student. This need-based program is administered through the United States Department of Education and awarded through participating institutions of higher learning.
The U.S. Department of Education awards Pell Grants to undergraduate students who meet a set of predefined criteria. The most important of criteria is the student must demonstrate financial need. Financial need is proven using a standard formula applied to the most recently filed Federal Tax return. The calculation of this formula results in an EFC (Expected Family Contribution). The lower the EFC, the higher the financial need. Students with an EFC of 0 can be granted the maximum award amount. As the EFC increases, the grant amount decreases. If the EFC is 3850 or above, the student will not be awarded Pell Grant funds.
Students must have earned either a General Education Development (GED) certificate or high school diploma. They must be enrolled in an institution of higher learning at least half-time. They must not have already earned a baccalaureate degree. They must be a U.S. citizen, have a valid Social Security Number and, if male, have registered with Selective Service. They must be able to maintain suitable academic progress, not be in default on a federal student loan and certify the grant funds will be used only for education purposes.
In 1965, The Higher Education Act was amended to deny funds to students who have been convicted of a drug offense involving the sale of drugs while receiving a Pell Grant. Students who have been convicted of a sexual offense are not eligible for Pell Grant funds.
The maximum Pell Grant amount for the 2011-2012 academic year is $5,550. This amount will be awarded in two payments (one for fall and one for spring). $3,700 is the projected average award amount for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Online applications for Pell Grants are taken at www.fafsa.ed.gov. All applicants must complete a FAFSA to be eligible for Pell Grant funds.