A jar of change sitting on top of a Pell Grant rule book.

The Rules and Regulations for the Pell Grant

There are two types of financial aid that an undergraduate student can receive from the government: a loan or a grant. While a loan must be repaid, grants do not—they’re free money. The federally funded Pell Grants are offered to over five million students, making them one of the most popular sources of free money a student has access to. There are rules and regulations, though, that govern how much a student can receive and for how long they can receive the aid.

How Do You Qualify?

First and foremost, a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, must be completed in order to be considered as a candidate for any kind of financial aid. This application also allows the student to be considered for financial aid funded by a school. To be considered for the Pell Grant, the student must be an undergraduate that has not already received a bachelor's degree or a professional certificate. The student must also be a U.S. citizen and have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Lastly, a student's FAFSA must be submitted by the deadline to be considered for a Pell Grant or any type of financial aid. The deadlines vary by state, but usually the state deadline is in the spring and the federal deadline is in early summer. Reapplying through FAFSA is the only requirement to be considered for continued support.

How Much Can Be Received?

There are a few factors that are taken into consideration when evaluating how much money a student will receive through a Pell Grant. For the 2014-15 academic year, the maximum a student can receive is $5,645. The cost of attendance for the school the student will attend has an influence on how much that student will receive. This cost is compared with the Expected Family Contribution--the amount of money a student's family is able to contribute to the student's education and living expenses.

The Expected Family Contribution takes into consideration the student's income, the parent's income, the household size, and the amount of other family members that will be in college at the same time. The student's status as either a part-time or full-time student also has a role in the amount of money a student will receive because the Pell Grant is prorated, and the same rules apply if the student will be attending for less than a full academic year. Sincethe Pell Grant is based on financial need, there are no academic requirements to receive it, but a student cannot receive the Pell Grant for more than twelve semesters. In addition, a student cannot receive a Pell Grant at more than one school at a time.

Last Updated: September 22, 2014