A Pell Grant is an award from the federal government. Unlike a loan, a Pell Grant does not have to be repaid. In order to receive a Pell Grant a student must file his/her FAFSA and show financial need.
The maximum award amount for the 2016-2017 award year is $5,815.
The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students to promote access to post-secondary education. Students may use their grants at any one of approximately 5,400 participating post-secondary institutions. Grant amounts are dependent on: the student's expected family contribution (EFC) (see below); the cost of attendance (as determined by the institution); the student's enrollment status (full-time or part-time); and whether the student attends for a full academic year or less.
Students may not receive Federal Pell Grant funds from more than one school at a time.
Financial need is determined by the U.S. Department of Education using a standard formula, established by Congress, to evaluate the financial information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and to determine the family EFC. The fundamental elements in this standard formula are the student's income (and assets if the student is independent), the parents' income and assets (if the student is dependent), the family's household size, and the number of family members (excluding parents) attending post-secondary institutions.
The EFC is the sum of: (1) a percentage of net income (remaining income after subtracting allowances for basic living expenses and taxes) and (2) a percentage of net assets (assets remaining after subtracting an asset protection allowance). Different assessment rates and allowances are used for dependent students, independent students without dependents, and independent students with dependents. After filing a FAFSA, the student receives a Student Aid Report (SAR), or the institution receives an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR), which notifies the student if he or she is eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and provides the student's EFC.