A Pell grant is a federal program that provides funds for students to attend college. Since this is a grant program, there are no loans to pay back, making it very beneficial for students who qualify for these funds. The amount of money paid to a Pell grant recipient is dependent on several factors, one of which is whether you are enrolled as a full- or part-time student, based on the number of credit hours you are taking.
An important consideration for Pell grant funds is your student status. According to the federal student aid handbook on how to calculate Pell grant funds, a full-time student is one who is taking at least 12 credit hours per semester, quarter or trimester, and as a full-time student is eligible for the full amount of the grant. As of the time of publication, a Pell grant for a full-time student is $5,500, providing the student plans to attend school for the entire year. Students enrolled in fewer credits or for a portion of the school year receive a lesser amount.
How to Apply
Pell grants are based directly on information supplied in the free application for federal student aid, FAFSA. Fill out the FAFSA as early in the calendar year as possible. Students must submit their own financial information and, if applicable, information for their parents regarding income, assets and family size. Forms submitted early in the year can be amended to include current tax information when it becomes available.
The Pell grant is available to undergraduate students who have not received a bachelor’s degree. The exception to this is teachers, who may be eligible to receive postgraduate funds for courses related to licensing or certification. Students must be able to prove financial need to qualify for this grant. Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for a full or partial grant, which the FAFSA will indicate at the time you fill it out. Your school will confirm this, and may ask for documentation to prove claims made on the FAFSA.
The full amount of the Pell grant is divided equally over the entire school year. Schools typically have a schedule of dates for when Pell grant funds will be released for each quarter or each semester. Funding normally occurs early in the term, and students may access funds to purchase books and supplies at approved outlets, such as campus bookstores. Remaining funds must be released to students, usually as a single check or as funds loaded onto a debit card, once the term has begun. The Pell program requires that students be given their funds a minimum of twice each school year. However, many schools release them once each quarter, so students may receive payments as often as four times during the year.
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