You're down but not out of the Pell grant program if you flunk a class. This is grant money, not a loan. The Pell grant pays for a class even if you fail the course. Under some circumstances, you might have to repay some of the money. But oh joy, you can take the class again with Pell grant funds.
If you just can't keep up in a class and get an "F," your grade point average is at risk but not your Pell grant. However, if you got that grade because you formally withdrew from the class or just didn't attend, the college may adjust your grant payment. The government gives these grants with the expectation you'll make every effort to get your degree. Not attending class isn't much of an effort. In that case, you can expect to hear from the college's financial aid office, and yes, they may ask you give back some of the Pell money.
Pell grant payments are often distributed after the drop/add date for changing classes. If you drop a class during the drop/add period, or before the class starts and don’t attend the dropped class, your Pell grant funds may be adjusted before you receive payment. In that case, you won’t have to repay any money. However, if you want a retroactive withdrawal from the university so your registration doesn’t show on your record, you'll have to repay of all of your Pell grant funds for that semester.
If you enrolled, attended and then dropped out of all of your classes before the end of the semester, you might have to return a percentage of your Pell grant. Sixty percent attendance is key. The university calculates the total hours or days of the class or classes and the total hours or days you attended. If you're under 60 percent, you’ll owe the Pell grant program for the percentage of time you stopped attending class. You get credit for the percentage of time you attended. The financial aid office can determine just how much you owe. If you don't pay up, you could have trouble getting another Pell grant.
Your best way to recover from that failing grade, and still keep the Pell, is to maintain a passing grade point average. Of course, you must continue to meet the other qualifications, such as staying out of trouble with the law and financial need. To keep your grade point average a “C” average with a failing grade, you’ll need an “A” in another class. If more of your grades are below “C” level than not, you could lose the Pell due to lack of academic progress.
- U.S. Department of Education: Master FSA Handbook -- Withdrawals and the Return of Title IV Funds
- U.S. Department of Education: Federal Pell Grant Program
- U.S. Department of Education FSA Handbook: Overawards and Overpayments
- U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid: Title IV Programs
- Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York: Federal Pell Grant
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images