The federal government offers Pell grants to students who need money for their college tuition and fees, and who meet the program's financial requirements. Since its origin in 1965, the program has helped millions of students and now disburses grants averaging about $2,600 to more than 5 million scholars a year. The Pell grant is the most popular federal student-aid program, but not everyone who needs or wants a Pell grant can get one. There are guidelines for your application, and if you don’t follow the rules or meet the requirements, you may be turned down.


You may not have submitted the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, a form on which applicants list financial information and figure the expected contribution from their families for educational costs. The FAFSA determines your eligibility for the program and is required for all federal student loan programs.

College Participation

You may have applied to a college or university that does not take part in the Pell grant program. The institution has to meet certain guidelines to be accepted for Pell grants. The federal government pays the Pell grant money directly to the school, which then disburses it to applicants or deducts it from tuition bills.

Concurrent Studies

You may be attending more than one educational institution. The Pell grant program limits applicants to a single school for which it may award the grant and will not award money for two separate schools that you attend at the same time.

Income Limits

You may exceed the income limits, which vary according to your family situation. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) depends on whether you are still dependent on your family for support, an independent student who draws on his own resources for education costs or an independent student with dependents. After you file the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR, which will notify you of your eligibility and your expected contribution.

Academic Eligibility

You may have already received a bachelor’s degree. The Pell grant program is limited to undergraduate students who have not yet received a bachelor’s degree. The program makes exceptions in the case of graduate students who will receive a teaching certificate at the end of their studies.

Enrollment Hours

You may not be enrolled for sufficient credit hours to qualify for the program. According to guidelines published online by the Department of Education, which administers the Pell grant program, students must be enrolled at least half-time to take part.

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