While most eligibility requirements apply to all applicants and are clear, there are other, less broadcasted categories of requirements that may not be relevant to all applicants, but of which all applicants should be aware.

What degree you are pursuing: Pell grants are commonly only awarded to students pursuing a 4-year degree. Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree and are pursuing a graduate degree are not eligible for Pell grants, however, students who are pursuing post-baccalaureate teaching certification programs may be eligible to receive extended Pell Grant funding.

How much you have used: There are lifetime limits on Pell Grant funding. Grants will be awarded for up to 12 semesters, or 6 years of pre-baccalaureate education. This can also be looked at as a percent, thus, students who only accept partial awards can use the award for longer. For example, if a student is offered $2,000 in Pell Grant funding for a given year, and they accept that funding, they are accepting 100% of the funds. However, if they choose to only accept $1,000, they have only accepted 50% of the funds. You can accept up to 600% over the course of your education.

Criminal Record: Pell grant eligibility can be affected by a criminal record. In 1994, the United States Senate opted to ban incarcerated prisoners from receiving Pell Grants. These restrictions may be lifted if a student is released from prison on parole or probation. Additionally, Federal Pell Grant restrictions are limited to federal and state penal institutions. Confinement in local, municipal, or county facilities, or a juvenile justice facility will not preclude students from receiving a Pell Grant. For non-incarcerated students, drug-related convictions and sexual offenses can limit eligibility. Students convicted of drug-related offenses will have their eligibility suspended. Following completion of a drug rehab program and passing unannounced drug tests, a student may be able to regain their eligibility. Conviction of sexual offences invalidates a student’s ability to receive a Pell Grant. If you have already received a Pell Grant and are then convicted of a crime, you may be required to return the award.

Emancipated Minors: In 2011, it was declared that emancipated minors (students under 18 whose parents have no legal rights to them) are no longer considered financially independent even though their parents have no legal obligation to support them. This means that they would be required to include their parents’ financial information on the FAFSA, and thus may not be eligible for Pell Grant funding. In order to be considered independent, an emancipated minor must meet one of the following requirements: They are married on the day they apply for aid, they have dependents, they have no living parents, or they are serving in the Armed Forces.

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