Why is my Pell Grant so low?

What is a Pell Grant?

Federal Pell Grants are money awarded to undergraduate students to help pay for college. To be eligible for a Pell Grant, a student must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and demonstrate financial need.

The first step in understanding how much money you might be awarded through the Pell grant is to know how it’s calculated.

First, know that Federal Law limits Pell Grant funds to six years (or 12 semesters) of funding.  

How does a Pell Grant work?

The amount you receive is calculated for an award year, from July 1st of the first calendar year through June 30th of the following year.

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is used to determine how much of the Pell grant a student might be eligible for.
  • The maximum amount a student can receive is based on full-time enrollment for the full school year.
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For example, if a student is offered a $6,000 Pell Grant for the award year, they’ll likely receive half the money for the fall semester and the other half for the spring semester. It’s also important to mention that students can only receive funding from one school at a time – so going to more than one school will not increase your aid award.

Why didn’t you receive the full Pell Grant?

As stated above, students need to demonstrate financial need to be eligible for the Pell Grant. Students demonstrate different levels of financial need, so some may only be eligible to receive partial Pell grants.

Here’s why some students don’t receive the full amount:

  • They are not enrolled in classes full-time. Pell Grants are pro-rated for students taking class part-time.
  • The student didn’t begin taking all classes before the financial aid lock date. (Financial aid doesn’t cover classes not enrolled in/started before the lock date.)
  • One or more of the student’s classes started later in the semester, and it wasn’t registered at the time financial aid was awarded.

If you feel like there is an issue with your financial aid, or that you should have received the full Pell Grant, reach out to your school’s financial aid office for more information.