The Pell Grant is federal grant for low-income college students. Although the primary requisite to receive a Pell Grant relates to income, there are several factors that go in to determining eligibility for the Pell Grant.

Income: Because the Pell Grant is meant to help low-income families pay for college, there are income limits. It is difficult to say exactly what factors go into determining this cap, because other factors can be taken into consideration with regard to your expenses when calculating EFC, but the accepted maximum tends to sit around $50,000 annually. One of the major factors that can affect this is how many children a single family has in college at the same time. While a family might not be eligible for need-based aid with only one child in college, this can change when a second child matriculates

FAFSA: Because the Pell Grant is a Federal Grant, the most important step to your eligibility will be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is a simple application that asks questions about the student’s and parent’s financial information to determine how much aid the student will need. The expected family contribution (EFC), which is a measure of the family’s financial strength, is calculated using the information provided in the FAFSA application. Along with the university’s estimated cost of attendance, the EFC is a key factor in determining if you are eligible.

Legal Status in the United States: Most federal aid is reserved for U.S. citizens/nationals and permanent residents holding green cards (Form I-551, I-151, I 551C). A U.S. citizen is defined as a person born or naturalized in one of the fifty United States, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. A U.S. National is a person born in American Samoa or the Swain Islands. However, there are some instances in which non-citizens may qualify for a Pell Grant:

  1. You hold a USCIS Form I-94 with one of the following protected statuses: Refugee, Asylum Granted, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Conditional Entrant issued before April 8, 1980, or Parolee.
  2. You or your parents hold a T-visa, given to victims of human trafficking
  3. You are listed as “Battered Immigrant Qualified Alien”. This protected status is given to people who have been abused by their citizen or permanent resident spouses.
  4. You are a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau.
  5. You are a Native American Indian born in Canada and protected by the Jay Treaty.

In all of these instances, you must provide proof that you are in the United States for other than temporary purposes, and that you intend to apply for permanent residence or citizenship.

Enrollment/Academic Status: In order to be eligible to receive a Pell Grant, you must plan to be enrolled at least half time (6-8 undergraduate credit hours) during the entire award year. Eligibility is also dependent upon your academic status: Pell grants are awarded to students in good academic standing with their university and who have not already been awarded a bachelor’s or professional degree.