Understanding Pell Grants

Pell grants, established in 1972 and named after Senator Claiborne Pell, are one of the most vital forms of financial aid offered by the United States government that offer students a way to pay for college education in the absence of other funding sources. In this article, we will cover all the necessary information regarding Pell grants and look into the eligibility criteria, grant process, and restrictions that come with it. We will also discuss the benefits and usage of these grants in various cases. By the end of the article, we hope that readers will have a comprehensive understanding of the Pell grant system and its use.

What is a Pell Grant?

A Pell grant is a type of need-based financial aid for students pursuing an undergraduate degree. It is funded annually by the Federal Government and is specifically aimed at helping low-income families be able to afford college tuition. Pell grants do not need to be repaid like student loans do and are not exactly college scholarships, as they are based on financial need rather than specific academic or athletic performance.

Eligibility Criteria

There are certain criteria students must fulfill in order to qualify for Pell grants. Generally, students must not have received either a bachelor’s or professional degree and must be an American citizen or a permanent resident. Students must also be enrolled as a full-time student at an eligible institution and demonstrate a financial need. Students must also meet the general eligibility requirements listed by the U.S. Department of Education to be eligible for Pell Grants.

Application Process

In order to apply for a Pell grant, the student has to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the official application for federal financial aid. This will allow the student to demonstrate the financial need, which is used to determine their eligibility for Pell grants. On this application, the student will be asked to provide information about their family’s fiscal situation, such as their income and assets.

Other than this, most schools also require students to fill out their own institutional financial aid application. This application asks questions about the student’s need for financial assistance and helps the university assess the student’s financial need better.

How Is the Amount Determined?

The amount of the grant you may receive is determined by the ED based on information from the FAFSA. Factors such as family income, family size, the cost of attendance, and other expenses are taken into consideration when determining the amount of the Pell Grant. Generally speaking, the higher the family income, the lower the amount of the grant awarded. Additionally, your academic performance may also play a role in the amount awarded.


The U.S Department of Education places certain restrictions on those who receive Pell grants so that the funds are used responsibly. One of the main restrictions is that recipients of the funds are only allowed to use the funds towards their educational expenses including tuition and fees, room and board, textbooks, and other educational materials. While Pell grants are need-based, they can also be used to cover living expenses of students who are attending school full-time.


Pell grants are one of the best forms of financial aid offered by the Federal Government and are extremely beneficial for students in need. One of the main advantages of Pell grants is that the student does not have to pay them back once the course has been completed. This makes the option more attractive for students who might not have access to other forms of financial aid. Additionally, the amount of the Pell grant depends on the student’s financial need and is adjusted each year to make sure the student is still eligible for the funds.

Another benefit is that these grants are aimed specifically at helping low-income families whose students are in need of educational assistance. Since the grants are distributed on a need-based requirement, lower income families are given more assistance even though the students may have lower GPA or test scores.


The funds received from a Pell grant are usually used to pay for college tuition, fees, room and board, books, and other educational expenses. The funds can also be used to cover living expenses of the student while they are attending school. Students who are full-time and have a low enough income might even receive a refund from their college if the amount received from the Pell grant is higher than the cost of their tuition.

Final Thought

Pell grants are a great way for students to cover their educational expenses in the absence of other sources of funding. The strict eligibility criteria, grant process, and restrictions help to ensure that the grant funds are distributed appropriately and are used responsibly. Overall, the Pell grant system is one of the most important forms of financial aid for low-income families.