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.
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.
- U.S. Department of Education: Federal Pell Grant Program
- Pell Grant Eligibility: Are There Pell Grant Income Limits?
- Campus Explorer: Pell Grants Push Single Moms to Earn a Degree
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "Household Debt and Credit Report." Accessed April 22, 2020.
- Federal Student Aid. "Federal Pell Grant." Accessed April 22, 2020.
- Federal Student Aid. "Federal Pell Grants Are Usually Awarded Only to Undergraduate Students." Accessed April 22, 2020.
- Federal Pell Grant Program. "Payment Schedule for Determining Full-Time Scheduled Awards in the 2020-2021 Award Year." Accessed April 22, 2020.
- National Center for Education Statistics. "Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees and Room and Board Rates Charged for Full-time Students in Degree-granting Postsecondary Institutions, by Level and Control of Institution: Selected Years, 1963-64 through 2017-18." April 22, 2020.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.