How to Get a College Pell Grant for an Online University

What is a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a federal grant that the government provides to students with significant financial need to help pay for college expenses such as tuition, fees, and books. Grant money does not need to be repaid, but you must show need by completing the appropriate forms and submitting all the necessary documents.

How do I know if I am eligible for a Pell Grant?

To be eligible for a Pell Grant, you must be working toward your first Bachelor’s degree, demonstrate financial need, you cannot be in prison or jail, and you must be attending an accredited online program.

How can I determine if my online program is accredited?

Accreditation can be given from many different agencies. Some agencies even bestow accreditation that is not genuine, so it is important to ensure you are getting the most accurate and true information possible. One great place to determine if your online program is part of an accredited school is on the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. All of the educational institutions listed here have been accredited by an agency that is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

What are the steps I can take to apply for a Pell Grant?

The first thing you must do is complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Upon completion of this process, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which will indicate whether you are eligible for a Pell Grant. If you are eligible, then you can follow the directions on the SAR for how to get your Pell Grant money.

Where can I find a FAFSA?

You can apply online at the FAFSA website or you can receive a paper form through your school or by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center and requesting one at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or TTY 1-800-730-8913. Applying online is the recommended method as you will have access to immediate online help and calculation tools and you will get faster results.

What documents will I need to supply with my FAFSA?

According to the FAFSA Documents Needed section, you will need your social security number, driver’s license, W-2 forms from the previous year, your federal tax return from the previous year (and your spouse’s if you are married), your parents’ federal tax return from the previous year (if you are a dependent), your untaxed income records from the previous year, current bank statements, current business and investment records, and your alien registration card or permanent resident card (if you are not a U.S. citizen).

When do I need to submit my FAFSA?

The soonest you can submit your FAFSA application is January 1 of the upcoming award year (which runs July 1st to June 30th) for which you are applying and the latest you can apply is March 1. Watch the deadlines carefully as some states have earlier deadlines.

How much money can I expect to receive from a Pell Grant?

The amount of money you can receive depends on many factors. First and foremost is your EFC, or the Expected Family Contribution, which is the calculation that figures how much your family is expected to contribute to your education. Additional factors include the cost of your educational expenses such as tuition, fees, books, and room and board and whether you are attending school part-time or full-time. The maximum amount awarded for the 2008-2009 school year is $4731.

What expenses does this grant cover?

You can spend your grant money on educational expenses only such as tuition, fees, books, and supplies. The money may go for living expenses such as rent or food, but it certainly is not meant to be spent on frivolous expenses such as financing that Spring Break trip.

How will I receive my Pell Grant money?

Your school will either apply your Pell Grant money directly to your expenses, send the money to you to for you to spend on your expenses, or may apply a combination of both. Your school must let you know how much money you will receive, how they will pay you, and when you will be paid. The school must disburse your money at least once per term.