Pell Grants

The primary focus of the Pell Grants system is to supply educational grants at the post secondary level from the federal government. Democrat Senator from Rhode Island, Sen. Claiborne Pell is the namesake of these grants.  A formula which calculates financial need is employed to decide eligibility for these outright grants which do not require repayment. The criteria for the grants have been determined by Congress and are applied for using the form, FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  This  form is used in applying for the grants.   The criteria for completion of the form, determined  by the US Congress must be entered in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.

The legislation supporting the Pell Grants is covered under the Higher Education Act of 1965 HEA Title IV, Part A Subpart 1; 20 U>S>C> 1070a.

Families of lower economic status and ethnic diversity are frequently among the demographic groups covered under the Pell Grants.

Levels of Funding Accessible Under Pell Grants:

Pell GrantsThe limit for 2011 has set at $5800 which is an increase from $5550 within the 2010-2011 year.  Future Pell Grant maximum amounts will be indexed with the CPI (Consumer Price index).

Due to increases in cost of attending post secondary schools the present Pell Grants are estimated to cover roughly 30% of a student’s cost compared to 60% in 2006.

Criteria for Awarding Pell Grants:

Financial need is the primary criterion for selection of students to receive a Pell Grant. Pell Grants funds can only be awarded from one institution of higher learning at a time.  A formula determined by congress has been established to evaluate eligibility. The student need to provide facts supporting these criteria  in order to qualify.  The application is submitted on the FAFSA form.

Where the student is financially independent the key factor in determining eligibility is the student’s annual income whereas dependent students also need to consider income and assets of the family. The number of people within the household also attending College or University is also a factor.

A measure called EFC, (Expected Family Contribution) takes into consideration the available income after taxes and basic living costs along with a percentage of assets.

Once the FAFSA has been filed the student will receive a SAR (Student Aid Report). This report will notify the student whether his or her grant is being awarded as well as the amount.

Dependency status of the student will determine the rate of award.  This includes dependent students, independent students without dependents, and independent students with dependents.

Post Secondary students who have not received their initial bachelor’s degree and post bachelors studies that lead to teacher certification could be eligible and awarded Pell Grants.

Institutions participating in this program need to either credit the funds to the students account, or pay the student directly and in some cases, a combination of the two strategies. Students need to obtain payments at least 1 time during the defined school term (semester, trimester or quarter term) or in case where the term is not defined, two payments per academic year.

Quick Facts on Pell Grants:

  • Pell Grants are non refundable.
  • The maximum grant for 2010-2011 year is $5550.
  • Criteria contain financial need, cost of attendance, full or part time attendance, and plans for a full year or less.
  • Grants might be used at any one of 5400 participating institutions.
  • Grant awards are also dependent on EFC (Expected Family contribution).
  • The FAFSA form is employed in determining financial need and form part of the application process.
  • Prospective Students ought to request a “FSA Handbook – Federal Pell Grant Program”


In these difficult economic times the Pell Grants system allows many students to attend post secondary Educational institutions who would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so. In this era some of the brightest minds have developed as a result of programs that acknowledge that intellect is not dependent on circumstance.