Whenever higher education gets brought up in conversation, it’s often talked about as just not being easily affordable.
And frankly – it isn’t.
A year of college expenses in the US will set you back $35k on average! Considering that a bachelor’s degree takes 4 years to get, that’s a lot of money!
However, with so many financial aid programs offered by the government, this expense could be easier to deal with.
You may be eligible for financial aid
In 2023, with the help of the Pell Grant, you could receive up to $7,395 just for going to school!
This may give you some extra freedom when budgeting, while also pursuing that degree you’ve always dreamed of.
Naturally, due to this money being a grant, not a loan, you’re never going to have to pay it back.
What is the Pell Grant?
As it turns out, the Pell Grant isn’t a new thing. This program has actually been around for decades thanks to the federal government.
What it aimed for was to give much-needed support to lower and middle-class students that strived for higher education.
The maximum amount has been adjusted over the years to account for inflation, however, an additional sum of nearly $7k is always welcome.
Of course, you can’t just expect to sign up to a higher education institution and get a handout.
An application process does exist for the grant, although it’s simple enough for you to handle it with ease.
Applying for financial aid
The application is surprisingly simple, and the only thing you’ll need to fill out is the FAFSA form.
It may also help you determine if you’re eligible for any other form of financial aid for your education expenses.
The FAFSA form collects information about your financial situation and determines your eligibility for federal student aid, including the Pell Grant.
The form is submitted online or by mail.
In case you do get a Pell Grant, you’ll be resubmitting your FAFSA form every year.
This is necessary to maintain your eligibility and continue receiving the grant.
Despite there is no deadline for submitting your FAFSA form, the general rule is to submit it as early as possible.
Being aware of the deadlines Pell Grant and other aid programs have is crucial.
Keep in mind that some states and schools have earlier deadlines for financial aid applications than others.
You can find any info on this topic at the financial aid office in your educational institution.
The full list of financial aid program submission deadlines is on this website.
Due to the grant’s nature, it’s not available to everybody, and there’s a list of criteria you have to meet.
If you meet the eligibility and qualify for the grant, you’ll have to maintain your eligibility in the upcoming years if you wish to continue receiving funds.
The requirements go as follows:
- You must be able to show your level of financial need
- You must be a legal citizen of the United States of America
- The program only applies to full-time or part-time undergraduate students
- The program accepts some post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs
It is super important for you to submit your FAFSA form every year on time.
If you miss the submission deadline just for a single year, you may lose your eligibility status for the grant.
Aside from not submitting your FAFSA form, you may also lose eligibility if you become incarcerated in a state or federal prison or if you become subject to an involuntary civil commitment after you’ve spent time in jail for a sexual offense.
The $7,395 mentioned earlier is just the maximum amount for this year though, and based on a review of your financial situation, you may be offered less.
Another limitation to the grant is the fact that you can only continue receiving this financial aid for 12 semesters.
This translates to 6 academic years, given that you maintain your eligibility status.
The most that you could possibly get out of the Pell Grant would be around $40k, given that the maximum amount remains unchanged in this period.
How you’ll be receiving the money
The school you’re enrolled in is likely going to decide your means of receiving the grant’s funds.
This is a matter you should discuss with your school’s office before applying, as some simply apply the grant’s funds to the student’s tuition costs.
On the other hand, though, other institutions may pay you directly, or offer a combination of the two, putting a portion of the money to your tuition costs and paying the rest out to you.
Every school has its own regulation on this, and there’s no reliable online resource for you to research this in detail, so just refer yourself to your school’s management to find out how they usually handle Pell Grant funds.
The fact is, you likely won’t ever have to pay back the funds you’ve received through the Pell Grant.
While this does hold true, there may be cases where a student is required to pay it back.
This is only applicable if you’ve withdrawn from the school or if your enrollment status changed.
It may also be if you’re part of several other financial aid programs, forcing you to pay back the difference.
To sum it up
Bottom line is, you should accept the idea that higher education may no longer be out of your reach. With just a short application process, you may become eligible for receiving almost $7k every academic year for up to 6 years.
While this amount may change with time, the current state of the economy signals it’ll only go up.
That is why it should come as no surprise if the grant amount increases in the following school years.
Financial aid programs like this are helpful to lower and middle-class families, allowing them access to educational institutions that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
If you feel that higher education might be too expensive for your pocket, the best starting point would be filling out your FAFSA form.