Do you have to pay back the Pell Grant?

Do you have to pay back your Pell Grant? As a general rule, the federal Pell Grant does not need to be paid back. Only students who fail to complete the academic period for which the federal Pell Grant was awarded will be asked to pay back a portion of the grant.

In order to be eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, you will need to fill out the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Once your college has accepted you and you are officially a student, you will be sent your financial aid award letter. This will outline whether or not you will receive a federal Pell Grant or any additional student aid. 

What is the Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is a need-based federal financial aid award given primarily to undergraduate students who demonstrate significant financial need. It is just one of the forms of aid available to students by the federal government each year.

For the 2020-2021 school year, the maximum aid amount awarded to students was $6,345, although the amount an individual student receives depends on their financial need, their college’s cost of attendance, and the student’s academic course load.

The grant can be used to pay for a variety of college-related expenses, from tuition to room and board to basic living necessities and everything in between. Students typically receive Pell Grant disbursements at least once per semester or equivalent academic period as part of their aid package.

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To apply, students must file their FAFSA®.

Why would I have to repay my Pell Grant?

If a student drops out of college during the semester or academic year for which they were given a federal Pell Grant, they may be required to pay back a portion of their award. The same holds true for full-time students who reduce their course load to part-time status.

The expectation is that a student will pay back all or a portion of the Pell Grant they are no longer “earning” through attendance.

Students who reduce their credit hours below full-time status typically see their Pell Grant award reduced to reflect their course load. If your new course load is 50% of your college’s minimum for full-time status, your college may choose to give you only 50% of their original Pell Grant offer.

Students who drop classes or drop out of college entirely after their Pell Grant aid has been disbursed to them will be expected to pay back the excess funds they will not be earning. Many colleges will not require students to pay back any portion of the Pell Grant that was used to pay their tuition bills.

If your college determines that you need to pay back all or a portion of your Pell Grant, they will send you a notice informing you of that decision. From that point, you will have 45 days to respond by paying back in full the amount owed or entering into a payment agreement.

If you have not filled out the FAFSA®, you can do so with FRANK and receive support to help you through the student and parent financial aid process. The application officially opens on October 1st.