Pell Grants are one of the most sought-after forms of financial aid. They are awarded by the federal government and can be worth up to $6,495 annually (as of the 2021-22 school year). Yet, there is a lot of confusion about which schools accept them.
The fast answer: Any school—either online or traditional—that accepts the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, accepts Pell Grants.
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FAFSA is the only way to get federal financial aid for post-secondary school. Your FAFSA application will qualify you for federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, and low-interest federal student loans. FAFSA can also land you scholarship and grant money from your state and your school, so it's very important to fill it out. Check out our handy question-by-question guide for completing the FAFSA.
Most regionally accredited online colleges and universities accept the same federal financial aid as brick-and-mortar schools.
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You can—and should—also apply for scholarships and grants for online colleges. After all, you want to get all the "free money" you can so you can reduce your student loan burden after graduation.
Remember, if you do need student loans, it's wise to max out your federal student loans before taking out private loans. Federal loans are generally at a lower interest rate and come with more-generous protections if you find that you're unable to make your monthly payments after graduation.
How to tell if your school accepts Pell Grants
It's fairly straight-forward to find out if your school accepts Pell Grants and other aid distributed via FAFSA. Most schools have a "financial aid" page on their websites. If they accept FAFSA, it will often be noted there, along with a link to fill out the application.
If schools don't accept FAFSA, they will often note that on the financial aid page as well.
Tip: If a school states that it doesn't accept federal funds, FAFSA, Pell Grants, or other kinds of financial aid, you may want to shop around before enrolling. With so many excellent online college options, it's a smart strategy to do some comparison shopping at schools that accept FAFSA before making your choice. Why pay potentially thousands more than you need to?
Interested in exploring online college options? Check out our recent roundup of the 20 Most-Affordable Online Bachelor Degree Programs.