Pell Grant Eligibility: How to Determine If You Qualify

Federal Pell Grants are given to undergraduate students with financial need who do not have a bachelor's graduate, or professional degree. Pell Grant eligibility is determined after completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Everyone planning to attend college, regardless of income, should complete the FAFSA as it also helps determine the amount of state aid and institutional aid a college may provide.

What is a Federal Pell Grant?

Federal Pell Grants are grants from the U.S. Department of Education for low-income students. Unlike a loan, a Federal Pell Grant does not need to be repaid. The Department of Education pays participating schools the Federal Pell Grant amounts for all its eligible students. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $6,495 for the 2021-2022 award year.

The amount you get depends on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the cost of attendance at your school, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and whether you plan to attend school for a full academic year or less. Your school will send you a financial aid award letter, which clearly outlines the types and amounts of aid you qualify for.

Pell Grant Eligibility

The first step to determine your Pell Grant eligibility is to complete the FAFSA. The greater your financial need, the more likely it is that you will be eligible for a Pell Grant. There are ways to determine your eligibility ahead of time.

Income Limit

The Department of Education considers your family's income and expenses to determine your Pell Grant eligibility. Expenses like the number of people in your household, the number of family members attending college, and your school's cost of attendance all impact your Pell Grant eligibility. The Department of Education will use your family's income and expenses to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). To be eligible for the Pell Grant for the 2021-2022 academic year, your EFC needs to be at or below $5,846.

Because of this, there is no set income cutoff for Pell Grant eligibility.

Age and Time

There is no age limit for the Pell Grant. It is available to undergraduate students who have not received a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree. Once you have earned a baccalaureate degree or your first professional degree, you are no longer eligible. Additionally, you can only receive a Federal Pell Grant for 12 academic terms (the equivalent of six academic years).

Additional Pell Grant Eligibility

You may qualify for a larger Federal Pell Grant if your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. You may also qualify for a larger grant if your parent died in the line of duty as a public safety officer.

Apply for a Pell Grant

You must complete your FAFSA to qualify for a Pell Grant. You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you are in school to stay eligible. Your school can then apply your Pell Grant funds to your school costs, pay you directly, or combine these methods.

Bridge the Gap

Once you have determined your Pell Grant eligibility and the amount of money you will receive from the FAFSA, you may still have additional college expenses. That's where the NC Assist Loan comes in. The NC Assist Loan helps bridge the gap between financial aid, college savings, and academic costs.

Apply now for the NC Assist Student Loan.