Undergraduate students who have financial need can apply for the federal Pell Grant each year to receive aid for their education. If you meet the Department of Education’s requirement for the grant program, be aware that there is a Pell Grant lifetime limit. Eligible students can receive a Pell Grant for about six years, or 12 terms of school.
Once you’ve reached the maximum number of times you can get a Pell Grant, you’ll be ineligible for future awards.
What Is a Pell Grant?
A Pell Grant is a government-sponsored program that offers aid to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. The grant is not available to graduate and professional students. In general, students who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree or higher are not eligible for a Pell Grant.
Students applying for Pell Grant funds for the 2022-23 academic school year can receive up to $6,895.
How many Pell Grants you can get depends on factors including your financial need, your school’s confirmed cost of attendance, whether your enrollment status is part-time or full-time, and how long you plan to attend school in each year.
Upon completing your degree program, Pell Grants generally do not need to be repaid.
To learn if you’re eligible for a Pell Grant, you need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The information on this application is used to determine your eligibility for the Pell Grant as well as other federal, state and school-provided financial aid.
You can submit the FAFSA as early as October 1 before the academic year for which you’re applying for aid. The deadline to submit your FAFSA for the 2022-2023 school year is June 30, 2023. Some aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, so it can behoove you to fill out your FAFSA earlier rather than later.
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The government determines whether an undergraduate student meets the financial need requirement for a Pell Grant by evaluating the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is an estimation of how much a student and their family can be expected to pay toward college and it is calculated using information provided on the FAFSA.
For the 2022-23 school year, the maximum EFC for Pell Grant eligibility is $6,206. Students who are at or below this threshold might be able to receive Pell Grant aid.
Students who have been incarcerated in a federal or state institution, or have an involuntatry civil commitment for a sexual offense are ineligible for Pell Grant aid.
How Many Pell Grants Can You Get?
You can apply for a Pell Grant for multiple academic years as long as you maintain your eligibility. As previously mentioned, students can receive the Pell Grant for up to 12 semesters or terms, or approximately six years.
How Lifetime Eligibility Works
Each award year is from July 1 of a calendar year to June 30 of the following year. In an award year, you can receive up to 100% of your eligible Pell Grant award; the Pell Grant lifetime limit that you can use is 600%.
In some situations, you might receive up to 150% of your Pell Grant aid (e.g. if you’re enrolled in fall, spring, and summer terms, full-time). Similarly, you might not always use 100% of your Pell Grant for an award year. This might come up if your enrollment dropped from full-time to part-time, for example.
Calculating Your Pell Grant Usage
To determine the Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU) on your academic aid account, the Department of Education looks at how much Pell Grant funding you’ve received in a given award year compared to your total available award for that year to arrive at a use percentage.
It then adds your used Pell Grants for each award year to determine whether you’ve reached the lifetime limit for the grant program. If you’d like to track your own LEU percentage, log into your StudentAid.gov account and view the “My Aid” overview.
Alternatives to the Pell Grant
If you’ve reached your Pell Grant lifetime limit, or don’t qualify for the Pell Grant, but still need financial assistance for school, there are other options to consider.
Pell Grants are just one of a handful of grant programs offered by the federal government. The Department of Education also provides:
• Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
• Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants
• Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants
For the most part, grants don’t need to be repaid, except in certain circumstances. Additionally, non-federal grants are provided to students, based on need or merit. These grants are provided by some states and schools, as well as private organizations like nonprofits, businesses, community groups and professional associations.
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Another financial aid option that you won’t have to repay after graduating are scholarships. Scholarships are earned on merit or are provided to students who are in financial need. They are often one-time awards that are given by similar entities as grants.
In some cases, there may even be unclaimed scholarships that students may be able to apply for in order to bolster the money they have to pay for college.
Participating in a federal Work-Study program allows students to earn income that can go toward college costs. Employers that participate in the program might be on campus or off campus, and jobs offer part-time hours.
Your school provides your payment, directly, unless you request otherwise. How much you can earn through the program depends on your financial need, your school’s available funding, and when you apply.
Eligibility for the program is determined by information provided on the student’s FAFSA.
Federal Student Loans
The FAFSA is also used to determine borrower eligibility for Federal Direct Loans. The Department of Education offers undergraduate students loans that are Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans. The government covers interest on subsidized loans while the borrower is enrolled in school and during qualifying periods of deferment. With an unsubsidized loan, borrowers are responsible for paying accrued interest.
Graduate students are able to borrow Direct Unsubsidized Loans and PLUS loans. PLUS Loans are also available to parents of dependent students.
Federal loans must be paid back with interest, but they offer low fixed interest rates. They also offer student borrowers invaluable benefits, like income-driven repayment plans and generous deferment and forbearance options.
Private Student Loans
Some students find that they still need additional funds for school, despite receiving federal financial aid. If you’ve exhausted your federal aid options and already applied to private scholarships and grants, this private student loan guide could help find options to get you the money you need.
A private student loan must be repaid, plus interest charges, and is provided by nonfederal lenders, like banks, online lenders, and other private institutions. Lenders require applicants to undergo a credit check which determines your eligibility, interest rate, and loan terms.
Borrowing requirements and offers often vary between lenders so always shop around to find a competitive rates and terms for undergraduate private student loans.
Generally, if you maintain Pell Grant eligibility throughout your college career, you can receive a maximum Pell Grant lifetime limit of six years to receive aid. However, you might reach this limit in a shorter or longer time, depending on your level of enrollment each award year.
If you still need to fund the gap between your existing financial aid and your school’s certified cost of attendance, a SoFi private student loan can help. It’s an easy and fast way to finance your education and you can get pre-approved online in three minutes.
Can you hit your Pell Grant lifetime limit early?
Yes, it’s possible to reach your Pell Grant lifetime limit before the typical six-year timeline if you take on additional academic terms during an award year. For example, if you enrolled in summer courses and received Pell Grant aid for that period.
Is the Pell Grant disbursed every semester or every year?
Your school will typically disburse Pell Grant awards in a minimum of two disbursements at scheduled intervals throughout the award year.
Is there an age limit for filling out FAFSA?
No, there is no age limit to submit a FAFSA. Some financial aid programs, like the Pell Grant, have restrictions on the academic status of aid recipients, such as whether they’re enrolled as an undergraduate or post baccalaureate student.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
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