Understanding Pell Grant Eligibility
By Robert Bennett
, last updated December 22, 2011
A Pell Grant is a federally-funded grant for economically disadvantaged undergraduate students. The grant is used to help defray the cost of attending either a two or four year college or university. The Pell Grant can be used at both public and private institutions of higher learning.
Pell Grants awards up to $5,550 per academic year to students who qualify based on financial need. Although this grant is open to everyone regardless of race, color, religion or age, although there are some restrictions.
In order to determine eligibility for a federal Pell Grant, the student must complete an online FAFSA application at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. The FASFA application is not just for the Pell Grant. The information on the application will be used to determine all types of federal and state aid. The application is free and the information submitted is protected with a username and password.
Typically, eligibility is reserved for students who can demonstrate financial need. For most traditional students this is established with the parent’s income tax return. Independent older students are required to provide information from their tax return. Students who were wards of the court, homeless or receiving government assistance are typically awarded a Pell Grant.
Applicants must have a valid Social Security Number, be a U.S. citizen (or eligible non-citizen) and either graduated from high school or received a GED. Male applicants between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with Selective Service. No Pell Grant recipient can be in default of a student loan.
Students who have served jail time or have a felony conviction are not necessarily denied a Pell Grant. Applicants convicted of possessing illegal drugs will not be eligible until one year after their conviction. Applicants convicted of selling illegal drugs will not be eligible until two years after their conviction. For applicants with more than one drug conviction, eligibility can be re-established after the completion of an approved rehabilitation program. Within the application a worksheet is provided to determine eligibility if needed.
Applicants need to be enrolled or intend to enroll in an institution of higher learning with at least 3 credit hours. To be eligible to receive the full amount of $5,550.00 for the 2011-2012 academic year, the student needs to be enrolled or intends to enroll full time which typically is at least 12 credit hours. If the student enrolls less than full time then the award amount will be adjusted down accordingly.