Do You Want Free Money for College? Have You Heard of The Pell Grant?

Why does the Pell Grant Matter?

The Pell Grant is a FREE RESOURCE! It is FREE money granted by the U.S. federal government. As a low-income, undergrad student at UCSB, I received financial aid and part of that aid was the Pell Grant. Unlike school loans, I did not pay back my Pell Grant, and this money helped me pay for books, writing utensils, printing, etc. It is a great resource to help low-income students while they achieve higher education. During the 2012-2013 school year alone (my senior year in college), 7,493 students received a Pell Grant totaling the amount to $32,740,591 in aid at UC Santa Barbara!

I wanted to take some frequently asked questions about Pell Grant and answer them as best as I could based on the information I researched on the federal student aid website.

What is the Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is a government award of money to undergraduate students with financial needs. Unlike a loan, the Pell Grant does not have to be repaid as long as you meet the program requirements and are enrolled in an eligible college/program for the entirety of the grant period.

What are the requirements to receive Pell Grant?

  1. Have a High School Diploma or GED
  2. Are enrolled or have accepted to enroll in an eligible undergraduate degree program or certificate program during the grant period
  3. Are a student enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program
  4. Have a Social Security number
  5. Are a U.S. Citizen or U.S. national, have a green card, have an arrival-departure record, have battered immigrant status, have a T-Visa
  6. Are NOT incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution

How do I apply?

You apply for Pell Grant when you submit a Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) form.  

How much money will I be granted?

The amount you are granted depends on:

  1. Your financial need
  2. Cost of attendance of the program/college you are enrolled in
  3. Your status as a full-time or part-time student

If Pell Grant is free, why may some people have to pay it back?

The only way in which you would pay all or part of your Pell Grant money back is if:

  1. You withdrew early from the program for which the grant was given to you.
  2. Your enrollment status changed in a way that reduced your eligibility for your grant (for instance, if you switch from full-time enrollment to part-time, your grant amount will be reduced).
  3. You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid.

Look out for the Pell Grant in your financial aid award letter, and remember it is not a loan, you don’t have to pay it back as long as you continue meeting the requirements!

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Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado was raised in East Los Angeles by her single mother and three older siblings. She graduated from James A. Garfield High School and received her Bachelor's degree in Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013. She currently works at KIPP Public Schools in Northern California as the Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement. Through personal and professional experiences, Melissa knows the importance of engaging families in schools and more importantly engaging them in their children's education. Her passion has always been in educational equity and her hope is that she can ignite fires in others to embrace the power of personal stories that creates changes in current systems of oppression specifically in our public education system.

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