For the majority of Americans who don’t think they qualify for Federal Pell Grants, the federal grant known for helping low-income students, it’s easy for them to think that financial aid beyond student loans won’t happen for them. Thus, they may skip filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) out of fear it’s just a fast track to student loans.
But that’s just not the case. Not only will filling out the FAFSA provide information to schools to help students get other need-based scholarships and grants, but middle-class families may qualify for Pell Grants without realizing it. Thus, it’s important middle-class families learn about these special grants beginning with a few important facts.
The three most important things to know about Federal Pell Grants are that they generally don’t have to be repaid, what the maximum reward is, and what constitutes financial need. According to the Federal student aid website:
“Amounts can change yearly. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $5,730 for the 2014–15 award year (July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015). For the 2015–16 award year (July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016), the maximum award will be $5,775. The amount you get, though, will depend on your financial need, your cost of attendance, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.”
Then there’s the good news. Because of family size, number of kids in college, etc., you may qualify.
Fastweb mentioned data that shows more middle class Americans qualify for financial aid then expected.
“ For example, 95.9% of Pell Grant recipients in 2007-08 had an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $50,000 or less, 3.5% had an AGI of $50,000 to $75,000, 0.4% had an AGI of $75,000 to $100,000 and 0.2% had an AGI of $100,000 or more. But for families with two or more dependent children in college at the same time the percentages drop to 84.4%, 13.5%, 1.3% and 0.8%, respectively. With three or more children in college the percentages drop to 77.2%, 18.8%, 2.7% and 1.3%, respectively. Thus with more children in college at the same time, your chances of qualifying for the Pell Grant increase.”
Since, it’s possible to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $75,000 or more, use this as just one more reason to fill out the FAFSA. After all, it’s worth the time to put in the application to see if you qualify. Plus, while Federal Pell Grants aren’t on a first-come basis, many university grants and even state funding is. The earlier in the year, a form is put in, the more likely the student will get some form of financial aid.
If the student isn’t ready for college just yet, say a junior in high school, fill out the FAFSA4caster. This electronic form was designed by the federal government for families to estimate their federal student aid eligibility in the years leading up to entering college. While incomes change and qualifications may change, it’s still useful. Any information that helps with understanding how financial aid works can help families start to plan their financial aid and other strategies for paying for college. An important fact to remember is the amount and eligibility for Pell Grants may vary by cost of attendance. So someone higher on the income scale range may qualify for a Federal Pell Grant at a school with a higher tuition rate and not qualify at another school. However, that isn’t a reason by itself to apply to schools with higher tuition prices. After all, if a school has an annual cost of attendance of $60,000 versus another school having a cost of attendance of $15,000, it will take a lot of financial aid to make up the difference in cost.
Bottom line: Receiving a Federal Pell Grant is based on a complicated formula involving many factors. Your student may qualify, and you use the same application as you would to apply for other forms of financial aid. So fill the FAFSA and you may be surprised how much overall funding your student is offered.
This article was written by Reyna Gobel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.