You cannot receive a Pell Grant if you have a bachelor’s degree -- with one exception. Pell Grants fund study for low-income students towards a bachelor’s degree. Once a student earns her first bachelor’s, she becomes ineligible to receive a Pell Grant for any further study, regardless of the degree she hopes to obtain.
Pell Grant Uses
Pell Grants help low-income students pay for college. Pell Grants can be used to pay for an associate’s degree at a community college, and for some accredited trade schools, certificate programs and professional degrees. After earning a two- or three-year degree, students can continue to receive Pell Grant funding if they enroll in a degree program culminating in a bachelor’s.
Pell Grants help students who could not otherwise pay for college to build a well-educated and highly-trained workforce. A bachelor’s degree has become a requisite for a career or professional position, whereas advanced degrees are often preferred but not required. Additionally, the average income gap between a high school graduate and a college graduate is around $20,000, while the difference between a person with a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree is $10,000. Consequently, the federal government focuses aid on students studying towards their first bachelor’s degree.
Students obtaining teaching certificates are the one exception to the bachelor’s degree cutoff. If you hold a bachelor’s degree and are enrolled in a teacher’s certificate program, talk with a financial aid advisor about the possibility of receiving a Pell Grant. You will also have to meet the other Pell Grant eligibility guidelines, which are demonstrated financial need, U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status and no drug convictions or defaults on federal student loans.
Other Types of Aid
Talk to your campus financial aid advisor about your school’s financial aid options. Colleges and universities are often more generous about giving aid to graduate students than to undergraduates. Additionally, look into the TEACH grant, a federal grant offering up to $4,000 a year for students intending to teach in public schools. Graduate and professional students can also borrow from the Department of Education under the PLUS loans for Graduate and Professional Degree Students program.
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.