Wouldn’t it be great for a grant to pay some (or all) of your college expenses?
The federal Pell Grant is the most popular educational grant. There are also state level grants, but they all vary by state.
It’s smart to educate yourself about the federal and state grants available in your state so that you can obtain all the grant money that’s available to you.
Before we get started, let’s clear up some questions you may have about the differences between loans, scholarships, and grants.
* Loans. Educational loans can be issued either by the government or private lenders. The government guarantees some private loans. Student loans must be paid back, just like any other type of loan.
* Scholarships. Scholarships are often distributed based on academic performance or other qualifications, and don’t have to be repaid.
* Grants. Grants are monetary gifts generally given based upon financial need. Grants do not have to be paid back. Another defining feature of any grant is that it has specific criteria about how the grant can be used.
The most common educational grant is the Pell Grant. Named after Senator Claiborne Pell, the Pell Grant program is administered by the United States Department of Education.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form should be completed before starting college and updated annually. The form requires information about income, financial needs, grades, and more. The form can be filled out and delivered at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The form is also available at your student’s high school.
A completed FAFSA must be submitted each year to re-establish eligibility. Failure to do so will result in the grant not being awarded.
1. Eligibility. Eligibility is determined from the information in the FAFSA. The student will be notified via email or conventional mail if and when a Pell Grant will be awarded. The Department of Education utilizes a formula to determine the family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC determines if the financial need criteria is met.
2. Undergraduates only. The applicant must be an undergraduate student that has not earned a bachelor’s degree. Once you have a degree, you cannot be the recipient of a Pell Grant.
3. Additional requirement. The applicant must have a high-school diploma or a GED and a demonstrated ability to benefit from a Pell Grant. The government has to believe that you can be successful in the college environment.
4. Citizenship. The applicant must be a United States Citizen or an eligible non-citizen.
5. Purpose and use. The applicant must sign a statement declaring that the aid will only be used for educational purposes. They must also not be in default of any student loans and not currently owe a refund for any federal educational grants.
6. Drug-free. An applicant that receives a drug conviction while receiving financial aid may be refused future federal aid. There is a remediation process to regain eligibility.
The maximum award for Pell Grant is $5,550 per year. This number can change from year to year, depending on funding availability. The eligibility requirements are subject to change as well.
Don’t forget about state-level grants. It’s not just the federal government that provides grants; your state does as well. Do some research and see what’s available. Your high school should have the information you need. Individual colleges and universities can have their own grant programs, too. Seek these out as well.
Getting a grant isn’t difficult if you meet the eligibility requirements. Be sure to find all the grants for which you are eligible. There might even be a grant specific to your intended college major. Getting the most from available grants helps you get the most from your college education. Good luck!