A Federal Pell Grant is money awarded to a college student to help fund higher education. Grants are awarded through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program and do not have to be repaid. According to the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the program, eligible students could receive up to $5,550 in Pell grants in the 2010-2011 academic year. Pell grant amounts can vary depending on financial need, educational costs and whether a student is enrolled full- or part-time.

Income and Financial Status

Pell grants are for low-income students and award amounts are based on a student’s expected family contribution, which is determined after the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is filled out. That number is determined by looking at a student’s--and the student’s family if he or she is a dependent--income and assets, family size and number of others in the household enrolled in a degree program.

Degree Program

Pell grants are for students enrolled in an undergraduate degree program, although grants are sometimes awarded to people working toward a teaching certificate. A student must be enrolled at a qualified institution--there are more than 5,400 eligible schools, according to the Department of Education--and be working toward a degree. Pell grants are granted to both full-time and part-time students.

Education and Grades

A student must have a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for a Pell grant. Once a student is enrolled in college, he or she must maintain good academic standing with a C or 2.0 grade point average.


Students must have Social Security numbers and certify they are United States citizens to receive Pell grants. Some non-U.S. citizens are also eligible if they meet the following guidelines: they are a permanent resident, have asylum or refugee status granted, have parolee status granted, have refugee status pending or are a Cuban or Haitian entrant.

Selective Service

Male students must be registered with the selective service to receive a Pell grant. If a person is not registered, he must have a statement of registration saying he does not have to register.

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