A Pell Grant is money used for college tuition and expenses. Unlike a loan, it doesn't have to be paid back. A Pell Grant is a desirable asset for every college student. Pell Grants, however, have specific requirements that determine who can receive them.


Pell Grants are mostly restricted to students who have not earned a baccalaureate or first professional degree.There are exceptions–notably graduate students enrolled in accredited teaching programs may be able to receive Pell Grants–but the exceptions are rare. If a student is enrolled in a five-year program, he only is eligible to receive a Pell Grant during his first four years. Students enrolled in two-year colleges are eligible to receive Pell Grants. Even after earning an associate degree, a student can enroll in a four-year university and receive a Pell Grant for up to two more years.

Financial Need

A student must exhibit financial need in order to receive a Pell Grant. Financial need is based on the student’s expected family contribution. The EFC is usually a number generated based on the income of the student’s parents. If the parents collectively earn less than a certain amount set by the federal government, the student will be eligible to receive the maximum Pell award.

Independent Students

Students who do not live with their parents will have their eligibility determined on their own incomes and expenses.

Inelligible Students

Students who do not have a high school diploma or GED cannot receive a Pell Grant. People in state and federal penal institutions are ineligible as well. Also, students who have been convicted of possession or sale of illegal drugs while receiving federal financial aid are ineligible. However, students incarcerated in local jails are eligible.

Part-time Students

Part-time students can receive Pell Grants. The overall award will be prorated based on tuition cost, hours enrolled and financial need. To retain a Pell Grant, students must keep a satisfactory GPA.


Most colleges issue their Pell Grants once per term or semester, including summers. This amounts to three disbursements per year. Colleges receive Pell Grants first, and then distribute them to qualified students. A student is able to use the Pell Grant for tuition, living expenses or school-related supplies. A Pell Grant must be used for college in some way. It can be used to buy food or pay rent, but buying luxury items is inappropriate. Before a student receives a Pell Grant, he signs an agreement saying he will put the money toward college.

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About the Author

Chansi Long has written for newspapers for more than six years. She has a B.S in mass communications, and during college she snagged many first-place writing awards -- state and national. She currently writes features for the Lawrence Journal-World, in Lawrence, Kan. She also serves as a content aggregator for a marketing research company.