The Pell Grant - A Hope for Poor Students Who Want to Pursue Higher Education

Bright students coming from low income families now have the opportunity to pursue a higher education, mainly due to the Pell Grant. This post-secondary federal grant was established to help support the educational advancement of low income students. The grant, which was originally called the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, was named after Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell who sponsored the grant.

The Pell Grant does not require repayment and is offered to students who are in financial need. The United States Department of Education awards the grant to students based on a financial need formula that uses criteria from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To apply for the grant, a student must first submit paperwork to determine his or her Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is determined based on the student’s answers to questions in the FAFSA form. To calculate for EFC, the percentage of net income and the percentage of net assets are added together. The net income is the remaining income after the basic living expenses and taxes are subtracted. Meanwhile, the net assets are the remaining assets after the asset protection allowance is subtracted. Factors that will lower a student’s EFC include the following: lower income, additional family members who are supported by the head of the family, fewer assets and additional siblings who are in college. The grant is mostly given to students whose household family income is lower than $20,000 per annum.

The grant is offered to low-income students who are enrolled in an undergraduate program as well in certain post baccalaureate programs. The student can use the grant in any participating post secondary institutions. The student is not allowed to receive Pell Grant funds from more than one post secondary institution at a time. Grant money varies depending on the student’s EFC, enrollment status (whether part-time or full-time) and whether the student is attending for a full academic year or not. For 2009-2010, the maximum amount to be given to each student is about $5,350. For 2010-2011, the maximum amount would be $5,500. The maximum amount varies each year depending on the federal budget.
To know if a student qualifies for the Pell Grant, the student must first submit a FAFSA form which is available at FAFSA’s website. After the FAFSA is filed, the student will receive a Student Aid Report or the school will receive an Institutional Student Information Record. Such report or record will notify the student if he or she is eligible for the grant. Because of the rising cost of college education, a Pell Grant recipient can also apply for other loans provided by the federal government. The student can also ask for loans or grants from private organizations and companies. The money awarded through a Pell Grant is not enough to cover all educational costs, that is why many of its recipients are looking for other grant or scholarship programs to alleviate the financial burden.