Free Money: Pell Grants

In the state of Florida alone, over $100 MILLION is left behind every year in FREE college money! According to a recent survey by University of Florida (article here), Florida families leave behind money to help them pay for college simply by not filling out a simple form. Having access to the over $150 billion dollars worth of federal grants, loans, and work study opportunities simply comes from filling out FAFSA, or Free Application of Federal Student Aid

According to, here are some key answers to many parents questions...

What are Pell Grants?

Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances (see that below).

How much should a family expect to receive?

There is no risk in applying for FAFSA

This a tougher question, and depends on each university or college the student is applying to as well as how much parents can contribute to the overall costs of college, called the Expected Family Contribution or EFC (figure out your potential EFC here).  Currently for the 2016-2017 year award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017), the maximum award is $5,815. 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
  • our plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. 

Why might I have to repay the grants?

Here are some examples of why you might have to repay all or part of a federal grant:

  • You withdrew early from the program for which the grant was given to you.
  • Your enrollment status changed in a way that reduced your eligibility for your grant (for instance, if you switch from full-time enrollment to part-time, your grant amount will be reduced).
  • You received outside scholarships or grants that reduced your need for federal student aid

Why should you not apply for Pell Grants or FAFSA?

There is no risk in applying for FAFSA and your merit based scholarships are not affected if you do or don't qualify for FAFSA. Also, MANY local, state, and national scholarships can only be obtained if you have filled out the FAFSA.  Many colleges and universities look at your admissions and institutional scholarships way before they consider your financial aid status, and most of the time it is a completely separate process. That said, there are some theorists in the "highly selective admission world" that states by listing those preferences, say Yale over Harvardthrough how you rank in the FAFSA, admissions can figure out which school is your top choice (see this article for more on this theory).

If you are like the 90% of us who apply to good state public and private colleges and universities, all you are missing out on is a piece of the magical $100 million pot not being used!


Dr. Amanda SterkComment