The cost of post secondary education is not cheap no matter where you study. Many students wind up with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt by the time they receive their degree. That is why there is the federal Pell Grant Program which provides grant money administered on a needs basis to low-income undergraduate and some post-graduate students enabling them to pursue their studies. Unlike many other forms of federally funded student financial aid, this money does not have to be repaid.
To be eligible to receive the federal Pell Grant applicants must be US citizens, have a high school diploma or GED, and they must be able to demonstrate adequate financial need. Furthermore, applicants must not have received their first bachelor’s degree; or if they have they must then be enrolled in certain post baccalaureate programs that lead to teacher certification or license.
Student financial need is established using a standard formula devised by the federal government. The equation takes into consideration: the student’s income and assets (if the student is independent); the parents’ income and assets (if the student is dependent); the household size; and the number of family members attending post-secondary institutions.
With such a wide range for variance in financial need, it goes without saying that there will be equal variance in the money given to different eligible candidates. The grant money allotted is determined by an individual assessment and reliant on several factors: the student’s expected family contribution (EFC); the cost of tuition; and the student’s enrollment status (part-time or full-time studies)
To give students an idea of the money they could potentially receive through this grant, for the 2009-2010 school year, the maximum amount of potential money to be awarded is $5,350. Students may use their federal pell grant money at any one of approximately 5,400 participating post secondary institutions. Participating institutions either credit the Federal Pell Grant funds to the student’s school account, pay the student directly (usually by check) or combine these methods. Students must be paid at least once per term (semester, trimester, or quarter); schools that do not use formally defined terms must pay the student at least twice per academic year.
Applicants may receive only one Pell Grant in an award year and may not receive Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time. To apply to this grant program, students can visit their high school guidance offices or fill out the online application. Students must apply for aid by the end of June to be eligible for aid in the upcoming school year.