What is the Federal Pell Grant?

A Federal Pell Grant is a monetary award that is commonly given to low-income undergraduate students who have yet to earn a bachelor's degree. However, under certain circumstances, a post-baccalaureate student may be awarded a Pell grant. For example, students taking post-baccalaureate programs that lead to teacher certification may be eligible for a Pell grant. Students have the option of using their grants at one of the 5,400 participating schools. A school is required to tell each student in writing how much the award is and how and when payments will be disbursed. Once the payment is received, the school must apply the funds to the student's account, pay the student directly or combine both methods.

Eligibility for the grant is dependent upon the amount the student contributes to their family, the tuition at the selected school, enrollment status and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less. According to the US Department of Education, the maximum award is $5,500 for the 2010 to 2011 school year. Students under 24 who have had a parent die as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible for the maximum reward. Students are not allowed to receive grant money from more than one school at a time.

How long can a student receive the federal Pell grant?

Qualifying students may receive the federal Pell grant for the equivalent of eighteen full-time semesters. It is available to undergraduate students and specific graduate students working toward a degree in teaching. Income eligibility is determined each year by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Satisfactory academic performance is also required to receive the federal Pell grant on a continual basis. A minimum grade point average equivalent to a C is required each semester, and the student must also accumulate credits toward graduation at a rate of at least two-thirds of the total credits attempted.

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