AASCU and the Pell Grant


What are Pell Grants?  

The Federal Pell Grant program helps low-income students access a college education by providing grants to help them finance a college education. These grants, which do not need to be repaid, act as the foundation of a student’s financial aid package. Other federal programs, such as Work-Study, Perkins Loans and Stafford Loans, are added to the Pell Grant. State and institutional aid programs are also added to comprise a student’s financial aid package.

What students are eligible?  

To be eligible, students must graduate from high school or a GED program, be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and be an undergraduate student or qualified graduate students. The student may either attend school part-time or full-time.  

How do students apply for Pell Grants?  

Students apply for Pell Grants by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the appropriate deadlines.

Where can students use Pell Grants?  

Student may use the grants at any of the participating 5,400 institutions. This includes most community colleges, public four-year colleges and universities and private, not-for-profit universities. It also includes many private, for-profit institutions of higher education. Pell Grants are portable, which means the grant aid follows the students to eligible institutions.

What are the award amounts?  

The grants range from $555 to $5,550 for the 2011-12 award year. The award is split by semesters.

How is eligibility for grant awards determined?  

According to the U.S. Department of Education, eligibility for the Pell program is dependent on student student’s “expected family contribution” (EFC); cost of education, whether the student attends school full-time or part-time, and whether their programs is a full academic year in length or less.

What does the Pell Grant program cost each year?  

The U.S. Department of Education estimates Pell Program to cost $36.1 billion 2012, and has increased since 1980.

How many students receive Pell Grants?  

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of recipients is projected to be 9.4 million in 2011, a 52 percent increase from 2008.

Why is the cost of the program increasing?  

According to the U.S. Department of Education, four factors have contributed to the increased cost of the program the growth in the number of students (+$7.7 billion), legislative changes to the need analysis program (+$2.7 billion), creation of the “two Pells” grant program in 2008 (+ $4.2 billion) and an increase in the maximum Pell Grant award (+$4.8 billion). 

What are the challenges facing the Pell Grant program?  

The rapid increase in the Pell Grant program budget has made it vulnerable to programmatic changes and budget cuts. Further, the deficit reduction committee (“super committee”) has been charged with finding substantial reductions in the federal budget, which also could affect the Pell program.

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