An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

Federal Student Aid Unlocked: Pell Grant

Every year Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides more than $83 billion in financial aid across their various programs. This money assists about 14 million students attending college. With those staggering numbers I can promise you that if you complete the proper steps I outline here on this blog, you can get a piece of that money!

Over the next few days I would like to explore the different types of Federal Student Aid. With 10 different programs that offer assistance to students, it is easy to get lost in a cloud of numbers and unfamiliar terms. Hopefully, after we have gone through this journey of exploring every program in detail, you will have a better understanding of how you fit into the big picture, and most importantly, where you can go for your money!

Before we get into the individual programs, it is important to note HOW one would go about applying for this aid. GOOD NEWS! This is the most simple answer that I can give to you: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). With one application you will be evaluated for all 10 FSA programs. Simply go to www.fafsa.gov and follow the steps to submit your application (Intimidated by the FAFSA?? More to come on that later so stay tuned!).

Now that you know how to apply for all these programs, let’s look a little closer at each one.

First: Federal Pell Grant

This is the most important Federal grant as it is the largest grant. Since it is a grant, it does not have to be repaid. The Pell Grant is available almost exclusively to undergraduate students and is determined by your financial need. Your financial need is used to determine how much of the Pell grant you will receive, if any.

For the 2009-2010 award year (which runs July 1st 2009- June 30th 2010), the maximum amount you can receive in Pell is $5350. Depending on which college you attend this could be enough to pay your entire tuition (eg. the school where I work is only $1746 for a full time student, per semester!) Or if it will not pay your entire tuition, the Pell grant will almost certainly make a significant dent in your college tuition bill.

Also, for part-time students, the Pell grant can be applied to your tuition through a scaling award system. Here is an example: If you receive the maximum Pell award of $5350, that breaks down to $2675 in Fall and $2675 in Spring (if you come full time). If you come part time, the Pell amount would be cut in half or $1338 each semester. Now keep in mind, your tuition should also be less, so Pell should cover roughly the same percentage of your tuition bill whether you take full or part-time classes.

Coming up next: Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant (FSEOG)

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