The Pell Federal Grant Program: Free Money for College

federal pell grant program

Tuition costs are continually on the rise, discouraging many single mothers who have aspirations to return to school. If you are a single mother looking to head back to college the $5815 Pell Grant Program should be an avenue to pursue. A Pell Grant is one of the best sources of Financial Aid a student can receive.

What is a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is one of the most popular low income grants offered by the federal government to assist in education costs. Keep in mind that Pell Grants do not cover graduate students, and as such, are only applicable to undergraduate degrees. There are over 5400 post secondary institutions in the United States that accept Pell Grant funding, should a student receive this grant. This means that pretty much all the accredited universities and colleges in the US will accept Pell Grant funding.

The pell grant is given out based on several criterion, with the biggest being the student’s calculated need. This figure is calculated based on the student’s FAFSA application. The factors that are taken into account are the student’s family contribution, the student’s categorization as a part time or a full time student and the total expected cost of the schooling which includes tuition and living expenses.

The Pell Grant maximum changes every year or two, increasing in amount (to keep up with inflation and rising school costs). As of 2016-2017, the maximum Pell Grant funding given out per year to a student is $5825.

The money amount depends entirely on the student’s personal financial need. Students who have parents who can contribute more (your parent’s income tax will be looked at), will get LESS than students who’s expected family contribution is low or non.

When you qualify for the Pell Grant once, you will be eligible for the grant every year, provided you maintain good academic standing. This academic standing will vary upon the institution you attend, with each school having different requirements. Some factors that are taken into account would be your GPA, your class attendance, your course completion.

How to Apply for the Pell Grant

Applying for the Pell Grant is easy; you simply must submit what’s called the Free Application for Student Aid  Form, also called the FAFSA.

To fill out your FAFSA form visit the FAFSA website where you can complete the form online. A big part of the application process verifies your income and assets to ensure you are in need of the grant. You will need the following information:

  • Your SSN (social security number)
  • Parents’ SSN (social security number) — but only if you are classified as a a dependent student
  • Federal Tax information (your own and if you are classified as a dependent student, your parents’ tax info).
  • Your Federal tax information, and your parents tax information if you are a dependent student. The specific tax forms that needed to be filled out and sent are the 1040EZ, the 1040A, and the 1040.
  • All untaxed income records for you and your parents
  • A detailed list of financial accounts (savings & checking accounts, investments like bonds, mutual funds, stocks, etc).

The deadline to for submitting the FAFSA application is June 30 of every year. However, it is important to submit the FAFSA as early as possible so you will have time to apply for other grants if you are not awarded the Pell Grant.

How Your Eligibility is Determined?

Your eligibility is determined with a formula used by the U.S. State Department of Education that evaluates the information on your FAFSA. The formula is used to find your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Basically this formula is an evaluation of how much money you should contribute to your college education costs in on year. Your EFC number will determine if you get financial aid and how much you will get. So sum it up, your financial need (the amount you will be awarded) is based on the college costs (tuition) subtracted by your EFC number. The lower your EFC the more you will be rewarded.

Remember a Pell Grant is a like a gift of money — it does not need to be paid back in any way. You should always apply for a Pell Grant before attending school if you are of low income you will most likely receive the loan, which can be a huge boost for single mothers looking to get back to school.