Saved by the Pell: Three Things to Know about the Year-Round Pell Grant

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education announced that the award window for the Federal Pell Grant would be extended to include the summer semester. This is in contrast to the previous policy, which restricted eligibility to the Fall and Spring semesters, when college students have traditionally taken the bulk of their classes. 

This is great news for adult learners who do not typically follow the “traditional” schedule but, instead, prefer to take courses in shorter accelerated terms with minimum breaks in-between. This accelerated schedule allows students to take more classes within the same amount of time, shortening their path to graduation. As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said herself, “this decision is about empowering students and giving them the flexibility and support needed to achieve their goals. Expanding access to the Pell program, so that students who need additional resources can graduate more quickly and with less debt, is the right thing to do." 

Whether you are a current college student receiving the Pell Grant, or someone considering returning to school— you may have questions about this new funding opportunity and how you can utilize it to achieve your goals. 

Here are three things you should know about the Pell Grant:
  1. Pell Grant eligibility is determined through the FAFSA form.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the official application to apply for all Federal Student Aid. Many adult learners do not complete the FAFSA for different reasons. They may think they are “too old” to qualify for financial aid, or they may be reluctant to take on the debt that comes with student loans. However, by not completing the FAFSA, you may be leaving free money on the table. When you complete the FAFSA, your eligibility for all types of aid is determined— including the Federal Pell Grant which, unlike loans, does not have to be repaid. That’s right, it’s free money!
  2. There is no age limit for Pell Grant eligibility. There are some common misconceptions out there about financial aid. One is that you must be a traditional college student to qualify for aid, or that there is an age limit to receive aid. This is false! Whether you are fresh out of high school or in your 40’s working on a degree you started years ago, most people qualify for some sort of financial aid. Eligibility for the Pell Grant is determined strictly by your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your age has absolutely nothing to do with it, so don’t let that deter you!
  3. You must be enrolled full-time to be eligible, but... The phrase “full-time” student may scare some adult students. However, it doesn’t always mean what you think it means. The U.S. government defines “full-time” enrollment as six hours for the summer semester. So, even though you may work a full-time job and take classes on the side, you are still eligible to receive Pell funding if you are enrolled in at least two three-hour courses for the summer.
Now that Pell Grant is back for the Summer, eligible students can receive up to 50% more than their original award amount. The bottom line is this: If you are eligible for Pell, or think you might be eligible for Pell, do not let this opportunity pass you by! Summer is a great time to get ahead in your classes, and by taking classes online, you can still travel and enjoy the sunny season as you normally would. Check out the eCore summer schedule and the eMajor summer schedule to see what online classes you might want to take with your summer Pell money. 

For specific questions about your financial aid eligibility, please contact the Financial Aid Office at your eCore home institutioneMajor home institution, or the institution to which you are considering applying.