Pell Grants can be used for any education-related expenses. However, the Department of Education does not clearly state what constitutes an education-related expense and what does not. According to the private Pell Grant Information Center, you can use a Pell Grant to buy any equipment that will help you in school, including a computer.
Department of Education Information
The Department of Education states that Pell Grants are federal funds that encourage access to colleges and universities. Pell Grant money can be used at any of the 5,400 participating institutions, and schools can issue checks to students at their discretion. Furthermore, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) takes the entire cost of sending a student to college into account, not just tuition costs.
Schools receive Pell Grant money and choose how to disburse it to students. Schools can apply all or part of the money to students’ tuition balances or dormitory balances, or issue checks for the full or partial amount. According to the Pell Grant Information Center, once the school issues you a check, the money is yours and you can apply it to practically any expense during the school year.
Financial aid expert Michael Bennet advises talking to a financial aid officer at your school before purchasing anything that is not clearly school related. Textbooks and lab fees are indisputable education expenses. A personal computer, however, will most likely be used for noneducational activities as well; ask permission and keep your receipts.
The Pell Grant Information Center claims that once your school cuts you a check, you will not be held accountable for how the money is spent. Bennet, on the other hand, believes that it depends on the school, and warns that schools can remove students from the Pell Grant program and even make them pay back awards if the school believes a student has not used award money properly.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.