Financial Aid

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is the most widely offered grant program by the federal government. Your Pell-eligibility is determined through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Your eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant is generally the same no matter what institution you attend for college. Factors such as the cost of attendance and part-time enrollment should be the only factors that reduce your Pell Grant-eligibility from one institution to another.

Eligibility Consideration

Federal Pell Grants, like most all grant programs, are limited to undergraduate students and only for the first bachelor's degree. Once you have a bachelor's degree or you are classified as a graduate student (even if a bachelor's degree is not conferred), you can no longer be considered for a Pell Grant.

Students must also be in a degree-program, complete the FAFSA (including any supplemental requirements), meet academic progress standards, and not be in default on their student loans.

The Pell Grant is one of the few aid programs that allows for an additional award for summer attendance and can be received when on co-op. Of course, receiving Pell for summers and co-op can have you reaching your lifetime limit on Pell even before you graduate as noted below.

Determining Pell Eligibility

FAFSA simplification and the 2024-25 FAFSA ushered in a new way to determine Pell eligibility. Now families can predict some eligibility prior to completing the FAFSA and full eligibility through FAFSA completion.

Pell eligibility through summer 2024 was based on EFC and a chart issued by the Department of Education.

Beginning with fall 2024, students are evaluated in 3 ways and receive the greatest of these Pell awards:

  1. Determine eligibility for maximum Pell.
  2. Calculate Pell as the difference between a maximum Pell award and the Student Aid Index (SAI).
  3. Determine eleigibility for minimum Pell.

At the same time, the Pell Grant is designated for high-need students, and some students will not be eligible for Pell after completing each of these evaluations.

For maximum and minimum Pell Grant evaluation, use the family AGI from the taxes and family size relative to national poverty determinations for the same year as the taxes reported on that aid year's FAFSA.

Maximum and minimum Federal Pell Grant determination
Student Type Max Pell Limit Min Pell Limit
Dependent student with single parent 225% of poverty guideline 325% of poverty guideline
Dependent student with non-single parent 175% of poverty guideline 275% of poverty guideline
Independent student who is not a parent 175% of poverty guideline 275% of poverty guideline
Independent student who is a single parent 225% of poverty guideline 400% of poverty guideline
Independent student who is a non-single parent 175% of poverty guideline 350% of poverty guideline

2022 poverty guideline is used for 2024-25 FAFSA aid year. 2023 poverty guideline will be used for 2025-26 FAFSA aid year.

Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and DC*
Family Size
2022 Poverty Guideline
2023 Poverty Guideline
1 $13,590 $14,580
Each additional person $4,750 $5,140

   * Poverty guidelines are slightly higher for residents of Alaska and Hawaii.

Eligibility for Pell Grants outside of maximum and minimum thresholds is determined by subtracting your SAI from the maximum Pell Grant award for the year and rounding to the nearest $5. In cases of a negative SAI, use -0- in this calculation.

Students can more easily anticipate if they are eligible for a Pell Grant as they have to fall within the limits for maximum and minimum considerations noted above or their SAI has to be lower than the Pell Grant maximum award amount.

Maximum Pell Grant award for 2023-24 was $7,395. Maximum Pell Grant award for 2024-25 was set to be the same with the final bill to fund the government signed on 3/22/24. Minimum Pell Grant is 10% of maximum Pell.

Part-time Enrollment

Students attending part-time for any term will have their Pell adjusted to reflect their enrollment intensity.

Pell Grants will adjust with each adding and dropping of courses when as student is less than full-time (12 hours) through the 15th day of the term for fall and spring or at any point during summer.

  • Through summer 2024: Students attending less than 12 hours are categorized as part-time, half-time, and less-than-half-time and have Pell adjusted to 75%, 50%, or 25%, respectively, for the term. 
  • Beginning fall 2024: Enrollment intensity is measured in credit hours as a percentage of 12 hours for full-time:  100% at 12+ hours, 92% at 11, 83% at 10, 75% at 9; 67% at 8, 58% at 7, 50% at 6, 42% at 5, 33% at 4, 25% at 3, 17% at 2, and 8% at 1. This percentage is then calculated against the Pell term amount.

Your Pell award will lock in on the 15th day of the term in fall and spring and will not increase or decrease after that date with late adding or dropping courses. Be sure to register for or drop any coursework in the first 2 weeks of those terms (even if some courses may start later) to ensure correct Pell use. Summer, because it does not have a Pell lock date given so many sub-sessions, will have your Pell Grant adjust up and down with each add or drop of courses under full-time. 

Additionally, students who are reported as not having attended a course with an X or WX grade are subject to Pell-recalculation once grades for the term have been posted. And any student who withdraws from all courses can have aid returned depending on when the final course drop for the term occurred.

Lifetime Limit

Student eligible for a Federal Pell Grant can only receive it for the equivalency of 6 full-time years

At UC, we are on semesters so each full-time term uses half (0.5) of a full-time year Pell. Students who attend fall and spring full-time then have used 1.0 full-time year in Pell. Student who attend full-time for summer as well can use up 1.5 full-time equivalent years in Pell over the 3 terms of fall-spring-summer. Any term where you only use a part-time Pell, your Pell usage will reflect that reduced amount.

Pell usage calculations are based on the Pell applied to each term. You want to use the amount awarded and disbursed as you are eligible.

Once you have reached 6.0 years in Pell usage, you can no longer receive Pell, even if you have not graduated with your bachelor's degree. Students who extend their academic careers through multiple major changes or academic progress appeals can reach their limit before graduation, and students who use Pell on co-op or in summer can reach this 6-year limit sooner than 6 academic years. 

The 6-year limit on Pell is absolute and is not appealable.