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 $5,815 annually. Yet, there is a lot of confusion about who qualifies and for how much.
Let's bust the top five myths about Pell Grants.
1. They are only for the neediest students.
It’s true that Pell Grants are based on financial need but award isn’t based solely on family income. It takes into account the cost of attendance—the estimate you find on college websites for everything from tuition to room and board.
Other factors include family income, the number of kids in college, and assets. Consequently, many middle class families can still qualify. The only form needed for the Pell Grant is the FAFSA, and the big plus to filling this out is that is it can lead to university grants and scholarships that can ultimately get you more money than the Pell Grant.
2. Pell Grants are an all or nothing.
Yes, students could qualify for up to $5,815, but they may also get $500 or $2,000. Any free money is good, right?
Plus, the flexibility in award amount is part of what makes it open to middle class families. Why? The formulas used to estimate family contribution may say a family’s financial need warrants a $2,000 award but not a $5,815 award. If only the $5,815 award were an option, many families would lose out on any Pell Grant funding.
3. If you qualify once, you’ll qualify every year.
Pell Grants are awarded based on your finances and cost of attendance for a given year. You must reapply every year.
Your eligibility may change for several reasons. For instance, your grades may have improved during college and more scholarships were awarded to you—eliminating your funding gap.
Or, perhaps your family's financial situation changed. If a parent lost a job or a family member became disabled, your eligibility may change.
4. Pell Grants don’t have financial-need exemptions.
Children of service members who died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11 may be eligible to receive the maximum Pell Grant amount, regardless of family income. For more on federal aid for service members and their families follow this link.
5. You can’t qualify for a Pell Grant after your 4th year of college.
Pell Grants have a maximum availability of up to 12 semesters of college. This helps if you’re a double major or just taking a bit longer to graduate. In other words, you don’t have to complete college in four years.
For further reading, checkout 5 tips for Securing university Grants and What You Need to Know About State Grants and Scholarships