Updated Aug 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Everything you need to know about Pell Grants

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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for Pell Grant recipients, as well up to $10,000 for individual borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year.

The big picture: The Pell Grant is considered the largest source of federal aid. Its recipients make up more than 60% of the borrower population, the White House said. About 27 million borrowers will now be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in relief.

  • Biden's decision will cancel the full remaining student debt balance for about 20 million borrowers, the White House said.

What is the Pell Grant?

The federal grant is awarded through schools to students who need financial assistance. Participating schools receive funds from the Education Department.

Do you have to repay Pell Grants?

Grants do not need to be paid back to the government unlike loans, FSA said.

  • In special circumstances, you may have to repay government grants if you withdrew from the program early, or if your enrollment status changes, reducing your eligibility for the grant.
  • Grants may also need to be repaid if you receive outside scholarships that impact your need for aid, too.

Pell Grant eligibility

In order to qualify for the Pell Grant, students need "exceptional financial need," per the FSA website.

  • The grant is often awarded to students whose families earn less than $60,000 per year, according to the Washington Post.
  • Students must be U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens who are enrolled in a degree or certificate program at a participating college or career school, per Sallie Mae.
  • Undergraduate students must be enrolled full-time or part-time.
  • Some students enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program can receive the federal Pell Grant, according to FSA.
  • You are not eligible if you are incarcerated in a federal or state institution, or if you are in more than one school at a time, per FSA.

Pell grants for military families

Students can qualify for additional Pell Grants if their parents or guardians were members of the armed forces and died in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, FSA said.

  • This also applies to students with a parent or guardians who died during active duty as a public safety officer.
  • Students with these family members who qualify must be less than 24 years old or enrolled at least part-time in school.

Pell Grant income

The Department of Education will award students the Pell Grant, but the school's financial aid office will determine the amount of aid students will receive, per FSA.

  • The office will start by considering your cost of attendance for the school. It will then consider a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is based on family income levels and expenses.
  • From there, the school will subtract the EFC from the cost of attendance to determine the financial need and how much students can receive.
  • The school will also consider other financial aid students receive.

How to know if you qualify for Pell Grant

Students who qualified for the Pell Grant can find it through their Free Application for Federal Student Aid information at FAFSA.gov.

Frequently asked questions:

If you qualified for a Pell Grant, do you get $20,000?

The White House said if you received the Pell Grant, make less than $125,000 and have loans through the Department of Education, you will receive $20,000.

Go deeper: Biden cancels up to $20K in student loans for Pell Grant recipients, $10K for millions of others

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