Pell Grants (formerly called Basic Educational Opportunity Grants (BEOGs)) are an increasing source of funding for college students.
According to March 2011 testimony on the Pell Grant Program by Under Secretary Martha Kanter before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies,the 2011-2012 year saw a dramatic increase in the number of those receiving Pell Grants - jumping to approximately 9.4 million from a previous 6.2 million. In 2015, over $30 billion was awarded to over 8 million students.
The needs-based Pell Grant Awards are essentially gifts of money from the government designed to help more people go to college. If more students have access to college and post-graduate education, it is assumed that that is a good thing. Whether that is true or not - and worth the huge investment - is a separate issue.
Pell Grants may be used in thousands of educational institutions in the U.S.! It's easy to see if you qualify and to discover how to apply for free. Just take our (free) quick and easy Pell Grant Eligibility Quiz.
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Do you look at various lists ranking schools for various criteria? It’s interesting to note that the percentage of students who qualify for Pell Grants is one of the key criteria for evaluation for recognition as a “Top School for Environment.” In December of 2016 the Wall Street Journal, in its “Times Higher Education” initial ranking of higher education institutions, named La Sierra University the top one in the West based on its level of diversity. The Diversity rating is based on a number of factors including the race ethnicity of both faculty and students, how many international students attend the school and the percent that qualify for Pell Grants (indicating income level).
Federal Pell Grants differ from loans in that the money awarded does not have to be repaid. The 2016-2017 maximum award is $5,815. The specific amount awarded depends on a combination of the applicant's financial need, the cost to attend the school in question, whether a student is full or part-time, and the portion of the academic year the applicant intends to attend school.
Students who do not qualify for Pell Grants may still seek government loans by filling out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the same application that determines your eligibility for the Pell Grant.
See below for information on changes that were made for Pell Grants in the 2011-2012 year as a result of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Good news for students worried about the impact of 2013 sequestration and ongoing wrangling in Washington. Because these funds are “forward funded”, or appropriated in the year before the awards are made, your Pell Grants will not be affected. It is possible of course that due to the extent of our accelerating spending and debt level in the United States, there may need to be prudent cuts across the board.
Get additional free information on Pell Grants atFree Scholarships Wiki.
Update October 2017
Did you see the headlines? It's possible that you missed them since the press rarely emphasizes good news these days. But this one is important, especially for students. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has delivered on her promise to offer year-round Pell Grants to students, increasing their funds and their flexibility in order to finish college. AND you can receive up to 150% of your award in the 2017-2018 academic year. This is a real boost for students and you should act now to get that FAFSA in and maximize the moneys you can receive. You must be an eligible student attending college at least half time in order to qualify.
Update May 2017
Pell Grant funding may be in for a reduction in the Trump budget. Though media reports expect the worst the final details will not be known for a while. It is known that increases are expected to support school choice. Trump promised $20 billion for such support during his campaign; we’ll see what happens when the reality of actually getting bills passed hits home. Pell Grants represent the largest chunk of federal student aid and the initial budget proposal cut the Department of Education by $9 billion, slightly over a 13% reduction. So be sure to be diligent about applying as soon as you can before a potential decrease in the money available for Pell Grants.
Good News October 2016 Here’s something you don't hear very often — the Pell Grant Program is actually projecting a surplus next year — in the amount of $7.8 billion dollars! They say it’s due to lower than expected program costs and the fact that college enrollments are down slightly, and because as families recover from the recession, fewer qualify for the grants. There is a fight to protect these funds from being used for other purposes. It’s possible that the maximum grant for the 2017-2018 academic year may be raised to $6055 (the max for 2016-2017 is $5815.) And they’re pushing once again to make pell grants available during the summer as well as during the regular academic year. The White House favors that option as well as a $300 bonus for those who take at least 15 credits per semester so that more will graduate “on time.”
News June 2016 Pell Grants can be used for career schools – or trade schools as they have been known in the past – and that can be a great choice to get a degree that will actually qualify you for a good job. But take care if you are going this route to be sure your school is in good financial condition and that their figures about graduation rates and job placements are verified. The Obama administration appears to be out to disqualify and drive out of business even the for-profit schools that have significantly better results than local community colleges (according to the Wall Street Journal).
News March 2016: The Department of Education has proposed changes to the Pell Grant Program that should help low income students graduate in less time. The changes would allow students to access Pell Grant funds through the entire year including summers, which is not the case now. By taking advantage of this program students can now graduate sooner and reduce their overall debt burden. The current maximum of two grants per academic year would be increased to three in order to cover tuition due for summer courses. They would not only finish their degree sooner but would be eligible for an average of an extra $1915 to pay their expenses. As an extra incentive to speed up progress toward a degree, students taking 15 credits per semester in an academic year could get an additional $300 over the current maximum Pell Grant. These changes will be included in Obama’s 2017 budget proposal and will need to be approved by Congress. The good news is they currently have some bipartisan support. Stay tuned….
News November 2015: The Obama administration has announced a new, experimental program offering Pell Grants to low income high school students taking college courses.“Dual enrollment” programs let high school students take classes at participating colleges to get a head start on their college credits. Now up to 10,000 of those students will be able to use Pell Grants to pay for tuition as well as books and other fees. Currently more than 80% of U.S. public high schools work in partnership with colleges so that over 1.4 million students can earn early college credits. As reported by the Education Commision of the States (a think tank not part of the government or any political party), low-income students are typically underrepresented in those programs. If this new program is a success that should change.
News for Pell Grants after 2013: Important changes could be coming up for Pell Grants awarded after the end of 2013. The current law which governs federal financial aid for students is set to expire at the end of the year. Though nothing happens fast you should stay tuned for more details as they become available. Discover more in our May 2013 Newsletter.
Important changes to Pell Grant awards were made for the 2011-2012 year. While the maximum award remains the same, there are fewer small awards. If you had a Pell Grant in the previous year and your Expected Family Contribution calculation was between 4996 to 5273, you will not receive an award for this coming year if that calculation is in the same range. In addition, there is a new limit to the number of Pell Grants you can be awarded in total, which is for 12 full time semesters (rather than 18) or the equivalent. If you have already reached that limit, you will not receive your award for 2012-2013.
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