What are Pell Grants?

When students are applying to Christian colleges and universities, one of the first things they probably think about is the cost. Today, earning a college degree can be expensive, and reports show that at many schools, tuition costs continue to rise. However, this should not dissuade students from earning degrees, as there are many opportunities for financial aid that can keep the price of college relatively low. In fact, CollegeBoard reports that as many as two-thirds of all college students receive some form of financial aid.

One option students have when it comes to paying for college is Pell Grants. These grants, which come from the federal government, are unique in that, unlike loans, they do not need to be repaid. Instead, students who are eligible for Pell Grants receive a designated amount each semester that can be put towards their education. Currently, the maximum amount individuals can receive for the 2011-2012 school year is $5,550. However, the exact amount awarded depends on a variety of factors, including financial need, full-time or part-time status and the cost of the school. Regardless of how much students receive, they will only get money from Pell Grants for up to 18 semesters.

Like many forms of financial aid, Pell Grants are not available for all degree seekers. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, in order to qualify, students must be undergraduates, meaning they have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree in the past. Additionally, applicants must be U.S. citizens who have earned a high school diploma or GED.

Students who want to apply for a Pell Grant can do so by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This can be done online on the Department of Education’s website, or individuals can request a paper form from the Federal Student Aid Information Center. This form becomes available for students to fill out each year on January 1, so CollegeBoard recommends that individuals do so as close to that date as possible, as various colleges and states have their own financial aid deadlines that students want to make sure they meet.

Still, even if students are not planning on applying for Pell Grants during their Christian college application process, filling out the FAFSA is important. This form not only gives individuals possible access to Pell Grants, but other forms of financial aid as well, such as loans, state grants and work-study programs.