What Is a Pell Grant?

FAFSA Application

Federal Program Offers a Source of Financing for Students

A Pell Grant is money the government provides for students who need it to pay for college. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. Eligible students receive a specified amount each year under this program. In the academic year of 2020-21, around 30 percent of all students that enrolled in undergraduate programs in the United States had been granted a Pell Grant award.


You’re eligible for a Pell Grant if you have financial need. The U.S. Department of Education determines your financial need by taking the information you supply when applying for a Pell Grant (for example, your family income) and plugging it into a standard formula to produce a number called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is then compared to the expected cost of attending your college (tuition and fees, room and board, books, and supplies) to determine the financial aid for which you’re eligible.

To be eligible for a Pell Grant, you must also:

Award Amount

The maximum Pell Grant for the 2022-23 award year is $6,495. The amount of the grant depends on your financial need and other factors, including the amount of time you attend college (whether a full academic year or less, and whether you attend full-time or part-time). You cannot receive Pell Grant funds from more than one college at a time.


A college may credit Pell Grant funds to your account, pay you directly or use a combination of these two methods. The college must notify you, in writing, the amount of the Pell Grant, and of how and when payments are made. Colleges must pay at least once per term, whether that is a semester, trimester, or quarter. Colleges that don't use formally defined traditional terms must pay the student at least twice per academic year.

How and When to Apply

You apply for Pell Grants, as well as all federal, state and some institutional financial aid programs, by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. You can request a paper FAFSA from the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 800-4-FED-AID (433-3243). Check with your chosen college to find out its preferred filing deadline for the FAFSA.

  • Be an undergraduate student who has not earned a bachelor's degree (with some exceptions for students in post baccalaureate teaching programs)
  • Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible degree or certificate program
  • Have earned a high school diploma or a GED or have completed a high school education in an approved home-school setting
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen