Income Guidelines for Single Parents Applying for Pell Grants

Income Guidelines for Single Parents Applying for Pell Grants
••• child and father image by Renata Osinska from

Unlike food stamps or emergency cash assistance, the Pell Grant program has no income limits, caps or even published guidelines. Department of Education statistics and financial aid officers’ experiences offer some ideas about who gets Pell Grant money, but no hard guidelines exist.

A Financial Aid Officer’s Experience

Pell Grant Eligibility is a website set up by a financial aid officer and offers comprehensive information with the goal of demystifying the Pell Grant and helping students get the full award amount. The website states that most Pell Grant money goes to students from families making less than $30,000 a year, but that households making up to $60,000 a year can receive Pell Grant awards depending on factors such as how many dependents are in the household.

Single Parents

Campus Explorer claims that single parents making less than $50,000 and caring for at least one dependent are eligible for Pell Grant money. Furthermore, President Obama’s 2009 push for more financial aid and looser award guidelines specifically targeted single mothers; single parents can call their financial aid office and ask the office to take their family situation into account.


Pell Grant applicants must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply. The FAFSA asks the applicant for detailed financial and household information. The most important determinant in a single parent’s Pell Grant eligibility and award is income, while second most important is dependents in the parent’s care. The more dependents an applicant is responsible for, the higher the applicant’s income can be.

Award and Uses

The maximum Pell Grant award in 2011 was $5,550, and students could receive two grants in any given school year. Grants can be used not only to pay tuition, but also to pay supply, transportation and living costs associated with going to school, including childcare.