You can attend college with less money than ever, even with the cost of tuition and fees increasing. Federal Pell Grants provide funding for college and vocational students. These funds are grant money from the U.S. Department of Education and do not require repayment. The maximum Pell Grant for the 2010-2011 school year is $5,550.
Federal Pell Grant funding changes each year, and applicants must apply in the spring for funds for the fall semester and the following spring. The funded amount is for both semesters, so at $5,550, the student receives a maximum of $2,775 each semester. Applicants who attend summer school can apply for additional funds.
Obtaining a Pell Grant starts with completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA form provides applicants a platform for sourcing federal, state and specific college funds. The Pell Grant is need-based. About four weeks after application, the applicant will receive a student aid report from the U.S. Department of Education, with a critical number enclosed. Critical to your award is the EFC, or expected family contribution. A low EFC will assure most applicants a Pell Grant.
Full-time students can potentially receive the maximum amount of $5,550 for the school year. Realistically, however, most students receive about half that amount, reports the Pell Grant Amount website. The minimum Pell Grant was $486 in 2010.
Your Pell Grant award may vary from one college to another because the EFC and other factors vary. Colleges and universities have established financial aid policies that may affect the amount of your award. If the average award for a full-time student is half the maximum or $2,775, this provides $1,387.50 a semester. The Pell Grant website reports that the 2008 average anticipated award was $2,770, not far from the 50 percent mark for a 2010 award.
The Department of Education bases the Pell Grant calculations on a formula approved by Congress. This includes the EFC, but adjusts for the cost of education at the school you choose and the number of credit hours you pursue. Final calculations occur at the end of the drop/add period, and many colleges and universities distribute funds after that date.
Supplementing the Grant
A Pell Grant helps, but it will not cover the cost of a college education. You will need other funds. Some students seek employment; others apply for scholarships and loans. Have a plan in place before you begin the semester so finances do not distract you from your studies.
- Pell Grant Amount: Understanding the 2010-11 Pell Grant Amount
- The Pell Grant: Pell Grant Amounts
- College Board: What is a Pell Grant?
- College Board: The Expected Family Contribution (EFC): FAQs
- Information for Financial Aid Professionals: Subject: 2010-2011 Federal Pell Grant Payment and Disbursement Schedules