A Pell Grant is a college funding grant for low-income students. Students who meet income guidelines and attend undergraduate and some graduate programs qualify for the grants. Students need to meet application deadlines to ensure they obtain grant approval and receive funds in time for class registration.


Students must attend an accepted college program for Pell Grant approval. Recipients must be U.S. citizens with a valid Social Security number or otherwise meet the eligibility requirements for non-citizens. Students must maintain satisfactory academic performance while applying and after accepting the Pell Grant. Furthermore, students can only use funds for school tuition, fees and expenses to retain future eligibility. Eligibility worksheets are available at www.studentaid.ed.gov.

Financial Need

Once students meet basic eligibility requirements, the U.S. Department of Education assesses students' financial need. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a formula that accounts for parental and student income, expenses and gaps in the ability to meet school costs. The formula includes family size, income and number of siblings attending college. Federally established regulations determine the expected family contribution. The U.S. Department of Education notifies the educational institution of the expected family contribution.


Pell Grant acceptance notices are sent to both the recipient as well as the school through the mail. Approval is not when the check is sent. Students must complete school registration before the Pell Grant is released to the school. Students must follow up with the school's financial aid office to ensure all follow-up paperwork is filed for the upcoming semester to maintain eligibility. The U.S. Department of Education disburses Pell Grant funds either just before or when the semester begins.


Students don't receive the grants directly. Instead, the U.S. Department of Education sends the grant money directly to the school's bursar's office, which applies the grant to the student's tuitions and fees. The bursar's office will then give any excess funds directly to the student by sending the student a check. Students may use these reimbursements for room and board expenses off campus.

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