Sometimes, even if you are typically a star student, you might find yourself struggling to get by in a particular class and despite your best efforts, you may receive a failing grade. If you had received a federal Pell Grant for the semester in which you struggled with a class, you might wonder if you have to pay back Pell Grants if you fail a class. The good news is that there is no repayment penalty for failing a class even if you received a Pell Grant at the time you enrolled in the course you failed. Unfortunately, if a course is required for the major that you are pursuing, you will need to repeat the course. Also, you cannot make failing courses a habit because federal guidelines require students to maintain an overall passing grade point average in order to continue receiving financial assistance through the Pell Grant program. While you will not be required to pay back a Pell Grant for failing one class, you may be required to repay it if you decide to drop out of college in the middle of a semester.
Do You Have to Repay Pell Grants?
A Pell Grant is money the federal government awards college students to pay for educational expenses. Unlike traditional student loans, you do not have to repay a Pell Grant to the federal government. Pell Grants are typically used to pay tuition. But if your tuition is already paid by other sources, the Pell Grant can be used to help pay for books, supplies, room and board, and transportation costs. The Pell Grant is only available to undergraduates, and the amount you are eligible for is based on factors that include the cost of attending the college, other siblings that also are in college and whether you are attending full or part-time. The maximum Pell Grant for the 2018-19 year is $6,095.
Dropping Out of College
If a student drops out of college before completing at least 60 percent of the semester, he may be required to repay part of the Pell Grant money received for the full semester. The college will be required to return the unearned portion of the Pell Grant money to the Department of Education, and the student is likely to get a bill from the college for the amount of money the institution had to return. If the student can't pay the whole amount at once, the college will set up a payment plan. But the student will have to repay the money or make regular payments on the debt in order to be eligible for more federal student aid.
Calculating Monies Owed
To estimate the amount of Pell Grant money a student would owe for dropping out in the middle of a semester, count the number of days in the semester and the number of days the student attended college before officially withdrawing. Divide the second number by the first to get the percentage of days the student was enrolled. For instance, if the semester is 100 days long and the student withdrew on day 25, the student would have earned 25 percent of the grant. If the student had received a Pell Grant of $3,000, college officials would have to return the unearned 75 percent, or about $2,250 to the federal government. The college could bill the student for 50 percent or more of that amount.
Do You Have to Pay Back a Pell Grant if You Fail?
A student must make satisfactory academic progress toward graduation to remain eligible for Pell Grants. The student needs to maintain the required grade point average for probationary status at the college, which often means earning at least a "C" average after two years of enrollment. Students who struggle to complete college-level work can also receive Pell Grants for up to 30 hours of non-credit remedial work.
Tim Grant has been a journalist since 1989 and has worked for several daily newspapers, including the Charleston "Post & Courier," the "Savannah News-Press," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal," the "St. Petersburg Times" and the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." He has covered a variety of subjects and beats, including crime, government, education, religion and business. He graduated from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.