Where to Find Financial Aid: Federal Government

Calendar Icon Updated January 15, 2019
Pell Grants

When it comes to paying for college, financial aid is readily available in a few forms, including grants, work-study and low-interest loans. Free money for low-income students, the Federal Pell Grant program awards need-based funds to undergraduate and some postbaccalaureate students. The Federal Pell Grants never need to be repaid.

Every year, $150 billion in financial aid is awarded to more than 50 million students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Beyond Federal Pell Grants, other aid available for students includes tax benefits, aid for serving in the military, aid for being the spouse or child of a veteran, educational and training vouchers for current and former foster care youth, scholarships, loan repayment and more. However, unlike most funding options, Federal Pell Grants have no repayment stipulation.

All Federal Pell Grants are awarded through participating schools, and with more than 5,400 participating universities, colleges and career schools, there are plenty of opportunities and outlets. Funds are disbursed either directly to the student or credited to the student’s account and can be used for tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, books, supplies and more.

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For a student to be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, he or she must

  • Be an undergraduate or vocational student enrolled or accepted to be enrolled in a participating school. Certain postbaccalaureate students in a teacher certification program might also be eligible.
  • Have not yet earned a bachelor’s or professional degree
  • meet the requirements of the Basic Eligibility Criteria for federal financial aid. The Basic Eligibility Criteria requires that you have a high school diploma or equivalent, demonstrate financial need, be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, have a valid social security number and more.

To be awarded a Federal Pell Grant, students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the only way to apply for federal student aid. Using information provide throughout the application, the FAFSA will evaluate a student’s financial situation. This information will be shared with the school(s) of the student’s choosing where financial aid offices will in turn calculate a student’s true financial need.

Not only is the amount awarded to students determined by a student’s financial need and cost of attendance, the student’s enrollment status as full-time or part-time is also considered.

Eligibility Team

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