Originally called the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, the Pell Grant has existed in some form since congress first passed the Higher Education Act in 1965. Today, it provides educational grants to some 5.4 million full-time and part-time students annually. The Pell Grant Program is by far the largest student grant program in the United States. When starting your search for financial aid to attend school, you should begin by looking into and applying for this grant.
Pell Grants are accepted at around 5,400 schools nationwide. These include traditional institutions like colleges and universities, but the grant can also be used to attend vocational schools and online schools like University of Phoenix. Currently, students that are awarded a Pell Grant receive up to $5,775 per year to fund their education. This grant can be used for a total of up to 12 semesters of study, providing a maximum amount of $34,650. Whether you are selected to receive the grant is determined solely by financial need and you will not be eligible to receive this grant if it is determined that you and your family have enough income to pay for your education.
Applying for the Pell Grant is fairly simple. You should first contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend to ensure that your school participates in the Pell Grant Program. The financial aid office will walk you through the process of applying for this and all other potential aid you can receive to attend their school. You will first have to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA which can be accomplished in around 15 minutes online by visiting FAFSA.gov. This application will calculate your overall financial need and provide the government with a score for your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. Your EFC will determine not only if you can receive a Pell Grant but how much funding you will receive under the grant program as well. You will automatically be contacted if you are selected to receive a Pell Grant and will receive information about all other grants and student loans available to you through filling out the FAFSA application.
The Pell Grant is not the only grant offered by the Department of Education, either. Additional federal student grants include the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant. The department also offers an extensive student loan program and opportunity for work-study employment. When you start your search for financial aid with the school of your choice, make sure you look into all of these grant and loan programs when searching out ways to pay for your education.