Pursuing a degree is a dream for many Americans! Higher education can open many new doors to dedicated students. Unfortunately, attending college is expensive. There are numerous expenses that a student can deal with. Tuition is the biggest expense and typically the first one that comes to mind. Other expenses include room and board, books, electronic devices, and other educational materials. All of this can add up quickly and cost a student thousands of dollars per year. Students that come from families that don’t make a lot of income or are low-income themselves, may be able to qualify for certain federal aid.
Federal student aid is provided to students that have a financial need for it. Students can access these opportunities by filling out a quick application online! One example of an opportunity available to students is the Pell Grant. Grants are like gifts and don’t typically need to be paid back. Grants are a great option to lessen the financial burden higher education can bring on. To take advantage of this financial assistance, you need to know how it works!
Explaining the Pell Grant
If you need options to make pursuing a degree more affordable, the Pell Grant could be a great opportunity for you. For the 2022 to 2023 year, students could get up to $6,895 from the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant is worth even more as the 2023 to 2024 school year approaches! Effective July 1st, 2023 to June 30th, 2024, the Pell Grant is worth up to $7,395. Eligible students can use these grant funds towards tuition fees, school supplies, and other related expenses. Pell Grants have been available to college and university students for decades. Eligible students can receive Pell Grant funds to use towards their education expenses for up to 12 semesters.
What is the advantage of a Pell Grant over a student loan?
The main advantage of the Pell Grant compared to a traditional student loan is that grants do not usually need to be repaid. Traditional student loans typically have high-interest rates and must be paid back. Students that are eligible for grants can rely less on loan options, which may result in a better financial situation after graduation.
How to Apply for a Pell Grant
The first step to receiving financial assistance through the Pell Grant is applying for it. You may have heard of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Every year students need to complete this application to determine if they’re eligible for any form of financial aid including a Pell Grant.
Key Deadlines to Keep in Mind When Applying
Each year the deadline to submit a FAFSA is June 30th for students that want to receive financial aid for the upcoming school year. For example, for the 2023-2024 academic year, students should have their FAFSAs submitted by June 30th, 2024. The best practice is to submit an application as soon as possible.
While the Pell Grant doesn’t have a specific deadline, other financial aid opportunities can be given out on a first-come-first-serve basis. Therefore, applicants that wait too long may miss out on additional aid that they qualify for. You can find out what deadlines you should be aware of by checking out this website.
Eligibility Criteria for the Pell Grant
Eligibility for the Pell Grant is based on a student’s financial need. For this reason, income level plays a role in determining eligibility. In addition to that, the following criteria are thing you may need to be met:
- Being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.
- Enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college or university full-time or part-time.
- Complete a FAFSA to demonstrate financial need.
- People enrolled in a postbaccalaureate teacher certification program might be eligible
Students that meet the above qualifications may be able to get a Pell Grant. It is also important to note that coming into effect as of July 1st, 2023 eligibility for confined or incarcerated individuals will be reinstated. Under certain circumstances the individuals currently serving in the below locations will be eligible to apply:
- Federal or State Facility
- Local Penitentiary or Prison
- Reformatory or Work Farm
- Juvenile Justice Facility, or Correctional Facility
Those who are subject to involuntary civil commitments after serving a complete jail sentence for a forcible or non-forcible crime will also be eligible. If you are unsure about your eligibility status, it’s best to consult with your school’s financial aid office.
Impact of Changing Enrollment Status and Grant Eligibility
If you change your enrollment status during the school year, it can affect the amount of grant money you receive. In some cases, changing your enrollment status can even result in you needing to pay back some or all of your Pell Grant. Circumstances that can impact your status with this financial assistance include:
- Dropped out of school and therefore the grant is not needed anymore.
- You received other financial aid opportunities that affected your financial status.
- Your enrollment status changed. For example, you dropped from full-time to part-time.
Pursuing higher education can bring on many great future opportunities for dedicated students. College can be a positive and memorable experience for many. Yet, the financial burden can overshadow those good memories. Many students struggle to find a balance between working full time to pay for schooling while keeping up with their studies. Students that need help with these expenses may be able to qualify for various financial aid opportunities. One opportunity, in particular, is the Pell Grant.
Grants are beneficial because they don’t need to be paid back, unlike traditional student loans with high-interest rates. These specific grants are awarded to students that can prove they have a financial need. In addition to that, there are other qualifications, such as enrollment status. Students that want to benefit from any financial aid opportunities should complete a FAFSA as soon as possible. The FAFSA needs to be filled out every year in order to maintain eligibility for various opportunities. If you have any specific questions on this topic, the financial aid office at your school is a great resource!