Can I Use a Pell Grant for Certificate Courses?

Pell Grants are available to eligible students who can demonstrate financial need. These grants do not require repayment under most circumstances. Part of the Federal Student Aid program under the U.S. Department of Education, Pell Grants can be applied to a variety of undergraduate studies. You'll need to be enrolled in an undergraduate program to qualify, but there has been a push in recent years to extend the program to include nonenrolled students who are interested in earning short-term certificates.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

You may be able to use a Pell Grant for certain undergraduate certificate programs as well as for postgraduate teaching certificate programs.

Eligible Programs for Financial Aid

Lists of certificate programs can be obtained from your college. Generally, students of certificate programs available to undergraduates can qualify for Pell Grants. Otherwise, once a student achieves a bachelor's degree or professional degree, Pell Grants usually are no longer available, regardless of the level of study and eligibility of certificate programs. Graduate degrees and related certificates generally are not funded through the Pell Grant program.

Postgraduate Teaching Certificates

One exception that applies to those with degrees concerns postgrads seeking to teach. Many post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs qualify for Pell Grant coverage if the program:

  •  does not, in itself, lead to a graduate degree.
  •  is treated like an undergraduate program.
  •  consists of courses necessary to achieve teaching certification at the elementary or secondary level in a particular state. 

In this case, a student with a bachelor's degree maintains eligible for Pell Grants, provided other qualifying criteria are met.

Qualifying for a Pell Grant

Students must meet certain criteria for Pell Grant eligibility, including financial need based on expected family contributions. A high school diploma or GED certificate is a prerequisite for college or career school, and a student must be accepted or enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program. Students must be U.S. citizens or qualified noncitizens.

Satisfactory progress in your course of study is required for continued participation in the Pell Grant program, and you must not be in default under a federal student loan program.

Applying for a Pell Grant

Applying for a Pell Grant is included under the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process, which the Department of Education recommends all students complete to become eligible for all available federal education assistance. The FAFSA must be filled out annually, and your school or state government may use your FAFSA as a basis for further financial aid. The Pell Grant amount you receive for your certificate program depends largely on the cost of the program and your EFC.

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