Eligibility for a Pell Grant

Eligibility for a Pell Grant
Recruiting students from across the U.S., Campus is the new alternative to online community college. We’re on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education to set students up for success no matter what their next step is. To us, maximizing access means recognizing the crucial role financial aid plays in making education accessible. Read on to learn more about key financial aid topics.

Are you eligible for the Federal Pell Grant?

If you're pondering, "Am I eligible for a Pell Grant?" you're starting on the right track towards financing your education. Paying for college may be one of the biggest headaches for the current generation, and it seems to only be getting worse. That’s why we’re giving you the 411 on the Pell Grant and how you can apply to the federal aid program every year that you plan on attending school.

Whether you're planning to attend a four-year university or community college, the Pell Grant can help make your education more affordable.

What is the Federal Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is a need-based form of financial aid that is not meant to be repaid, making it a big win for students who are eligible to receive it. The program is designed to support students from low-income households and help them pay for costs associated with college. Costs could be anything from tuition to room and board. Understanding who is eligible for a Pell Grant can be the key to unlocking this essential financial support.

Some students may be wondering, "Is there an income limit for Pell Grant eligibility?" and the answer to this question is a little complex. While there is no fixed income limit for students to be eligible for the Pell Grant, the only way to know if you're eligible is by submitting your FAFSAⓇ (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Questions like "Am I eligible for a Pell Grant?" often arise, and the FAFSAⓇ is your first step towards finding the answer.

It's also important to note that the awards given vary from student to student based on their financial need. Even though it may not be enough to cover all your financial needs, the Pell Grant can be extremely helpful in covering some significant out-of-pocket costs each year.

While the Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program awarded by the Department of Education and has been around since 1972, it’s actually just one of many forms of aid out there, and receiving it will not affect the amount of other federal financial aid available to you. Determining who is eligible for a Pell Grant can help students tap into this valuable resource without impacting other financial aid.

Basically, it does not hurt to go for it!

What Can the Pell Grant Pay For?

Qualifying Pell Grant expenses include:

  • Tuition
  • Textbooks and required course materials
  • Supplies
  • Required school fees
  • Technology or equipment

The Pell Grant is not meant to cover personal expenses such as your travels during the holidays or extracurricular activities.

Is the Pell Grant Tax-Free?

The Pell Grant is technically subject to taxation. For tax purposes, it is considered a scholarship. To maintain eligibility for Pell Grant awards, it's crucial to use the funds for educational expenses as specified.

However, it can be a tax-free award, so long as it is used for qualified, school-related expenses as we shared above.

On the other hand, if the Pell Grant award is used to fund non-school-related expenses, you will have to report it as income on your tax return. Be very mindful of how you use your Pell Grant - when in doubt, contact your school's financial aid office.

In September 2023, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and Sheldon Whitehouse introduced legislation (A.K.A. the Tax-Free Pell Grant Act) that excludes the Pell Grant from taxable income, amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

This has been publicly supported by a number of committees and associations, including the American Association of Community Colleges, The Institute for College Access and Success, the American Council on Education, the Council for Opportunity in Education, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, Rebuilding America’s Middle Class, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. These organizations recognize the importance of clarifying eligibility for Pell Grant criteria for students nationwide.

How Much is the Pell Grant?

The amount students can receive in their Pell Grant changes annually and is administered on a sliding scale. Knowing who is eligible for a Pell Grant each year is as important as keeping up with the changing award amounts.

The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-2024 school year (July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024) is $7,395. For the 2021-2022 award year, the maximum Pell Grant was $6,495, which was then increased to $6,895 for the 2022-2023 award year.

School Year Maximum Pell Grant Award
2023-2024 $7,395
2022-2023 $6,895
2021-2022 $6,495
2020-2021 $6,345

However, not all students qualify for the maximum amount. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average Pell Grant award received by undergraduate students was $4,491 in the 2019-2020 school year.

There’s also the Summer Pell or Year Round Pell that’s available for students who take an additional term within the award year. Depending on your specific program, you can receive up to 150% of your original award.

What a lot of students don’t know is that there is also a maximum amount of Pell Grant funding that can be distributed over their lifetime. As detailed by Federal Student Aid, students are eligible to receive a Pell Grant for the equivalent of six years of full-time enrollment. If you’re getting close to your limit, you’ll receive a notice.

Be sure to check with your school about how they apply federal aid and issue refunds to students.

So, Who is Eligible for a Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is for undergraduates and students who are enrolled in specific post-baccalaureate programs (be sure to check if your program qualifies). Regularly reviewing eligibility for Pell Grant guidelines is advisable for students in different academic programs. But what are the general eligibility requirements for a Pell Grant? Your eligibility will depend on several important factors:

  • Financial need (your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, determined by your FAFSA)
  • Student status (whether you’ll be a full-time or part-time student)
  • The cost of attendance at the school (this is determined by your school or program)
  • Semester enrollment plans (will you be enrolling in the full academic year or part of it?)
Graphic showing the four different factors that are considered when determining the eligibility of a student for the Pell Grant award
Factors that determine Pell Grant eligibility

A student may lose Pell Grant eligibility if:

  • They withdraw from enough courses to change their enrollment status
  • They fail to continue progressing through their degree

If you’re unsure about your eligibility, be sure to reach out to your school’s financial aid office. Staying informed about who is eligible for a Pell Grant helps students avoid pitfalls that could lead to loss of this financial aid.

How Do I Apply for a Pell Grant?

Your gateway to the federal Pell Grant is through FAFSA. Here’s what you need to do to:

  1. Submit your FAFSA after it opens for submission on October 1 each year. NOTE: The 2024–2025 form will be available in December 2023.
  2. Receive a notice from your school’s financial aid office letting you know how much money you may be eligible to receive for the academic year you apply for.

Don’t forget: Filling out the FAFSA is your ticket to seeing if you qualify for any forms of federal aid, including other federal grants, federal student loans, and financial aid from your state (additional applications may be required). Some schools use the FAFSA to award institutional financial aid. Completing the FAFSA each year is essential because eligibility for Pell Grant can change based on financial circumstances.

It’s absolutely free to apply, so make sure you do it every year you intend to be in school!

Am I Eligible for a Pell Grant and How Much Can I Expect?

As we said before, your eligibility for a Pell Grant is based on numerous factors that will be calculated when you submit the FAFSA. Those factors include your financial need, which is based von your Estimated Family Contribution, the cost of your program, and your student status.

Federal Student Aid provides detailed Pell Grant award tables for the 2023-2024 school year. These are used to determine Pell Grant award amounts based on the factors mentioned above.

The Department of Education has also released the 2024-2025 Pell Chart, which allows individuals to see if they qualify for the maximum or minimum Pell Grant award.

For students wondering if they can receive a Pell Grant award while attending a program part-time, the answer is yes. However, the amount you receive will be adjusted based on the amount of time you are enrolled for a specific term. As an example, if you're awarded $4,000, but you're enrolled as a 3/4-time student, your annual award would only be $3,000.

If you’d like to directly contact the Federal Pell Grant Program, contact information and additional resources can be found on the Federal Pell Grants page on benefits.gov.

Financial Aid Support: Who Should I Contact?

Of course, your first point of contact if you have any questions about your specific Pell Grant is to talk to a financial aid administrator at your school. Your school’s financial aid office should be able to address any questions you have about your financial aid, the Pell Grant in general, and other resources that may be available to you as a student.

If you plan on becoming a Campus Scholar and have more financial aid questions, we have resources that can help, too! Reach out to financialaid@campus.edu or (888) 675-2460 for more information.

Want to learn more about Campus?

Our admissions advisors can answer your questions.