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Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is the largest need-based college grant program, awarding more than $30 billion in grants each year to more than 9 million students. Grants are a form of gift aid, money that does not have to be repaid.

The maximum Federal Pell Grant for the 2020-2021 award year (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021) is $6,345. Federal Pell Grants are available at any college or university that is eligible for federal student aid.

Pell Grant Eligibility

To be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant you must:

  • Satisfy the other requirements for federal student aid eligibility.
  • Demonstrate exceptional financial need, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
  • Be enrolled in an undergraduate degree or certificate program or in a teacher certification program. Graduate and professional students are not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant program.
  • Not have already received a Bachelor’s degree or first professional degree. Associate degree and certificate recipients remain eligible until they receive a Bachelor’s degree or professional degree. (Students who are double-majoring and will receive two Bachelor’s degrees should be careful to complete the requirements for both degrees at the same time. The student will lose eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant as soon as he or she finishes the requirements for one of the Bachelor’s degrees.)

    Exception: If you are enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification or licensing programs, you may be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant.

NOTE: There is no minimum enrollment status to receive a Federal Pell Grant for undergraduate studies, however the amount of the grant will be prorated based on your enrollment status (partial, half-time, full-time, etc.).

To be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant for post-baccalaureate teacher certification or licensing, you must be enrolled at least half-time.

Circumstances That May Impact Federal Pell Grant Eligibility

If you meet all eligibility criteria, there are a few reasons why you could still be considered ineligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant. Reasons include:


  • Incarceration in a federal or state penal institution, or if you are subject to an involuntary civil commitment after incarceration for sexual offenses. You will be ineligible for the duration of the incarceration or civil commitment.
  • If you have been convicted for the sale or possession of illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid you may have your eligibility for all federal student aid, including the Federal Pell Grant, suspended or terminated. You could be suspended from receiving federal financial aid for one year from the date of conviction to an indefinite period of time (depending on type and number of offenses).  However, you may be eligible to regain your eligibility early.
  • If you have reached your lifetime eligibility cap of the equivalent of approximately six years of full-time enrollment. 

    Strategy: You can choose to forgo receiving the Federal Pell Grant one academic term in order to preserve eligibility for future academic terms. 

    For example, if you are eligible for a small Federal Pell Grant but you expect to qualify for a larger grant in the future, you may want to avoid using up some of your lifetime eligibility limit. The lifetime eligibility limit does not consider the amount of the grants, just the number of full-time equivalent academic terms of grants received.

Pell Grant Application

To apply for the Federal Pell Grant, you must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at – to continue your eligibility for future years you will need to apply annually. The FAFSA becomes available starting October 1 of each year.

Pell Grant Amount

Your financial aid award will be determined by your school based on your expected family contribution (EFC), and the school’s cost of attendance (COA).

The maximum award you can receive for the 2020-2021 award year (July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021) is $6,345. 

You school will consider the following to determine your award:
  • Your EFC
  • The school’s COA
  • Your enrollment status (full-time or part-time student)
  • Intended length of attendance (full or partial academic year)

In addition, your school is required to use the Pell Grant tables as provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

If your school determines that you are Pell Grant eligible, the amount they award you will be included in your financial aid award letter. The money will then be applied to your school costs, paid directly to you, or a combination of the two, in the form of two or more disbursements. Your disbursements will likely be at the beginning of each academic term. 

If You Have a Parent Who Died in Iraq or Afghanistan

If your parent or guardian died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001 you may be eligible for additional federal grant or eligible to receive the maximum Pell Grant amount. 

  • Increased Federal Pell Grant: At the time of your parent’s or guardian’s death, you must have been less than 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time at a college or career school. If you were less than 24 years of age or enrolled in college or career school at least part-time, and are considered to be Federal Pell Grant eligible, your Federal Pell Grant will be recalculated based on an EFC of 0. Meaning, you may be eligible to receive the maximum Federal Pell Grant.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: If you are not Pell eligible, you may be eligible to receive the maximum Federal Pell Grant minus 5.7 percent for grants disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2020 though Sept. 30, 2021 (as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011). For grants disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020, you may be eligible to receive the maximum Pell Grant minus 5.9 percent. 

In order to qualify, you cannot be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant on the basis of your EFC, but you meet all other requirements, and you were under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of your parent or guardian’s death. The dates here are important to determine your maximum award. Here are your maximum awards for the 2020-2021 award year. 

  • If you are receiving the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant on or after Oct. 1, 2019, and before Oct. 1, 2020, your maximum award will be $5,970.65. 
  • If you are receiving the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant on or after Oct. 1, 2020, and before Oct. 1, 2021, your maximum award will be $5,983.34. 
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