If you need help financing your education but are concerned about taking on debt, a Pell Grant could be the solution. These government-backed awards are based on financial need and won't affect your unemployment payments. You will, however, have to report your unemployment income on your grant application.
Pell Grant Basics
A Pell Grant is need-based, which means you can only get it if your financial disclosure statements show you can't afford college on your own. Your eligibility is also based on the financial status of other people applying for the grant because those awards are limited. The maximum Pell Grant award is $5,730 per school year at the time of publication. You could receive less than that amount if your application shows you have other sources of funding or can afford to pay part of your tuition on your own.
Grants and Unemployment
Receiving jobless benefits won't necessarily hurt your chances of getting a Pell Grant. If you receive a relatively high amount of unemployment compensation, however, it could limit the size of the award you get through the grant program. You'll have to notify your state unemployment office of your Pell Grant award even though those funds aren't generally sufficient to affect unemployment benefits.
You must disclose your unemployment income on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You'll also have to mention any other sources of income, such as money from your parents, investments or residual income. If you don't disclose all of your income you could be forced to pay back your grant. You might also be banned from receiving student aid in the future.
Students typically apply for financial aid every school year and your grant eligibility can't change if you get a job during the school year. However, you might not be eligible for need-based grants or your grant award could be smaller when you re-apply next year. If you plan to attend school full time and can afford to support yourself without a job, you might have fewer financial issues if you avoid full-time work until you graduate.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.