Financial aid comes in many different forms: need-based scholarships, grants, work study and loans. All of these components work together to make attending college an achievable dream for every student. Like scholarships, grants do not have to repaid, and students can qualify for grants from a variety of sources. Grants can be awarded by the federal and state governments, colleges and public or private organizations. Oftentimes, grant money fills the gap between the sticker price of a college and what a family can realistically pay.With that, the Pell Grant is a federally funded grant program that has been around since 1965. Fortunately, the program today is bigger than ever, in dollars awarded and students helped. Take a look at the Pell Grant and how it could potentially help you pay for college.Historically, the Pell Grant has aimed to help low-income students turn the dream of attending college into a reality. Naturally, in low- socioeconomic circumstances, attending college can seem like an impossibility. The goal of the Pell Grant is to encourage and then provide financial support for students that may have difficulty paying for college in any capacity. Because of this, the Pell Grant has been responsible for increasing college enrollment and has been attributed to enhancing student retainment. When students have the security of financial help, they are more likely to attend – and stay in college.Students can reach Pell Grant eligibility the same way they would any other form of financial aid: by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is available for students to begin filling out sometime in December 2023. It is recommended that students complete the FAFSA as soon as possible, given that much of financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, the FAFSA does have an 18-month application cycle and can be submitted as late as June 30 the following year it is released. The FAFSA will ask about both the student and parents’ financial circumstances and use that information to determine the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Typically, a student’s income and assets, parents’ incomes and assets, family household size and number of family members attending college at the same time, are taken into account in order to determine EFC. This is why it’s important to complete the FAFSA every year; any – or all – of the above circumstances can change within a given school year. Once the EFC is determined, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) or the school will receive an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). Either of these will notify the student – or the institution – if he or she qualifies for a Pell Grant.
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