According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Pell Grant Program provides college funding for low-income students. Pell Grants are need-based awards for undergraduates and can be used to attend one of 5,400 postsecondary institutions around the country.
Pell Grants can be used to pay educational expenses such as tuition, fees, room and board, and other related education costs.
Students determine eligibility for the Pell Grant by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The deadline to complete the application is June 30 for the following academic year. The deadline may be earlier for state or school-based scholarships and grants.
One award is given for each academic calendar year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The award is generally split and disbursed equally during the academic semesters. For example, a student receiving a $5,000 award would receive $2,500 for the fall semester and $2,500 for the spring semester. Students can generally receive the award for a total of four years.
Pell Grants cannot be disbursed more than 10 days before the start of classes. The actual time of disbursement varies by school, and could be on the first day of classes, at the end of the drop/add period, or in monthly payments.
The school may disburse Pell Grant funds by crediting the outstanding balance of a student’s account. Students can also be paid directly by check, cash, or electronic funds transfer (EFT) into the student’s bank account.
The Pell Grant may be reduced for students who do not attend school full time or do not attend for the full academic year.
Jennifer Clendenion has four years experience as a freelance writer and has worked the past two years as a reporter and photographer for a Tennessee newspaper. She earned an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies in 2007 and is working toward a bachelor's degree in Human Learning, K-6 Education.