Now more than ever, Pell Grant funds are available to low-income students who want to attend college. Funding for Pell Grants in 2010 was the highest ever, and the individual award amount increased. Grants are the most desirable form of student aid, reports a College Board study. A Pell Grant does not require repayment if the student attends class, and no specific grade point average is required. Every student gets an EFC (expected family contribution) calculation.


Pell Grants are awarded based on need, and need is calculated with the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education processes the application through a formula to arrive at the expected family contribution or EFC. The EFC calculation reports a number that determines eligibility for a Pell Grant. A “zero” for the expected family contribution qualifies a student for the most funding, but other figures qualify students as well.


The maximum EFC that can qualify for a Pell Grant in 2010 is $4,617, and that would include a full-time student at a school with an attendance cost above $4,860. The minimum award for a full-time student for 2010 is $1,176. The highest EFC for a three-quarter-time student is $4,500. A student attending three-quarters time could receive $1,004 if the attendance cost is above $4,800.


A student with an expected family contribution of zero who attends an expensive college could potentially receive $5,550, the maximum for 2010. The cost of attendance at the selected school would have to be $4,860 for the student to receive the full award. According to “The New York Times,” the average Pell Grant award is $3,600. The tables published by the U.S. Department of Education for financial aid professionals shows this to be reasonable. A student with an EFC of $100 could receive $3,640 if the cost of attendance at the school is about $3,000. If the cost of attendance goes to $4,000, the EFC can be $1,000 to $1,100.


Pell Grants are available for less than half-time study, but the maximum amount at an expensive college for half-time is $1,388, with an EFC of zero. The minimum award for 2010 is $659 for a part-time student, according to the U.S. Department of Education tables.


Any EFC figure over $4,617 is outside the income range for Pell Grant awards, as this award is need-based. The EFC considers dependent students, independent students and independent students with dependents in arriving at the calculations. A change in status could affect an award. You must complete a new FAFSA each year, with a new opportunity for a Pell Grant award.

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