Federal Pell Grant Eligibility

Low-income families do not have to forgo a college education because of their financial situation. The U.S. Department of Education has grant money set aside for qualified students to use to attend college and pay tuition, books, housing and more. However, not every student who applies will be awarded a Federal Pell Grant. Federal Pell Grant eligibility is determined via several conditions.

To apply for a Pell Grant, which is money money for undergraduate students with financial need, students must qualify through a Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA). As the name states, the application process is free and open to anyone considering attending a college or vocational school.

A formula determines whether or not a student is eligible. One of the factors is the expected family contribution, known as the EFC. It determines whether the student is a dependent or an independent where financial status is concerned. If the student is still a dependent, it figures the family's income and the percentage of that income that could realistically be contributed to higher education. It also evaluates assets. Independent students are evaluated on the same criteria. Both statuses also consider any dependents, other college students in the household and other unique conditions.

Where a student goes to school also factors into the formula. The amount of tuition and living expenses, as well as the way the academic year is figured (semesters, quarters and so forth) all play a part of the Federal Pell Grant eligibility of the student. The student's anticipated status while attending school also makes an impact; full-time versus part-time students will qualify for different amounts. Federal Pell Grants are generally only awarded to students who have not completed a bachelor's degree yet, although there are a few exceptions.

To apply for a Pell Grant, a student should complete a FAFSA as soon as possible. Once the U.S. Department of Education has processed the FAFSA, the student will receive a Student Aid Report, or SAR. The SAR will let the student know what kind of financial services are available to use, including whether or not he or she has Federal Pell Grant eligibility and for how much.

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Many different types of federal financial aid are available, including Pell Grants, Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans, so learning about the various options is an essential first step in any strategy for financing a college education.

A student can expect to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant if he or she meets certain conditions set forth in the application process. Generally, Federal Pell Grants are awarded to families who apply for a Pell Grant with incomes of less than $20,000, although there are exceptions based on a student's total criteria.

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