A calculator and GRANT label laying on a desk as a student applies for the Pell Grant.

5 Disadvantages of the Pell Grant

Almost every college age and high school student has heard of the Pell Grant. For many students, the Pell Grant is the primary means by which higher education can be funded, but just like any other financial assistance, the Pell Grant has its disadvantages. So let's dive in, here are five disadvantages of the Pell Grant.

  1. It isn't enough money to fully pay for college.

    When the Pell Grant came out it could cover the entire cost of a person's education at a state or community college. In fact, it would generally leave enough money remaining after tuition to cover some of the costs of living as a full-time student. This obviously benefited students enormously, as they could pay for school and then devote their time to their educations. That didn't last, though, and these days the Pell Grant often does not even cover a quarter of state college tuition. What does that mean for recipients? Students then have to find loans and part-time work. That means students have more to worry about outside of doing well in class and it leads to the complicated nature of the Pell Grant. It’s too much money to pass up for college, and too little to fund it.

  2. The Pell Grant made colleges balloon.

    When the Pell Grant began providing funding for students to attend college, the colleges also began to receive more money. For these colleges, the grant money became something to be relied on as another source of income. This caused the schools to spend more money. New buildings, earmarks on private funds, and loans attached to the grant money all resulted. Now colleges rely on that money and pass the difference in cost on to the students who the money was supposed to be helping.

  3. More students in larger classes.

    Colleges have a terrible time dealing with the number of freshmen they get every year. Part of that trouble comes from the Pell Grant, which is not attached to academic success. Students who might otherwise consider trade schools go to college partially funded by the Pell Grant because the money is there, not necessarily because they have the academic chops to stick with school, and class sizes get bigger. This places a strain on the universities and their professors.

  4. Pell Grant money isn't growing at the rate needed.

    Like the other government subsidies for the economically disadvantaged, the money from the Pell Grant can't keep up with inflation. While the cost of higher education skyrocketed, the amount provided by the grant is barely inching up.

  5. The FAFSA.

    The Pell Grant is the reason for everyone's most hated financial document, the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an extensive document that must be filled out perfectly. It asks for detailed information concerning finances for both the student and student’s family and then bases a student’s eligibility for aid based on that information. Unfortunately, certain information, such as parental assets, can cause a student to ineligible for the Pell Grant. The FAFSA does not take anything other than financial information into account.

Last Updated: August 18, 2015