Maximum Federal Pell Grant Increasing to $5,645

Editor's Note:  On January 30, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education announced the maximum Pell Grant Award for the 2015-16 financial aid award year will be $5,775. Click here to read Barbara Thompson's latest Pell Grant update.

The maximum amount college students can receive under a Federal Pell Grant for the 2013-14 financial aid award year is $5,645, an increase of $95 from the maximum amount for the 2012-13 award year.

The new maximum was announced January 30 by the U.S. Department of Education, which manages the Pell Grant program — the nation's largest source of need-based college grants — money that students do not have to pay back. According to a government tally, more than $33.5 billion in Pell Grants were awarded to 9,714,722 students during the 2011-12 academic year; the average amount was $3,451.

A number of factors determine a student's eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant and the amount awarded, including:

  • Financial need, which is determined according to a federal formula that is based upon the information supplied via the FAFSA — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  • The cost of attendance.  Not every school can award the full $5,645 amount, even to students who are eligible to receive a "maximum" Pell Grant award.
  • Enrollment status. Pell Grants are available to students who are going to college on a full-time, half-time, or less-than-half-time basis.  
  • How many terms or semesters in which the student is enrolled during the financial aid award year.  

What's more, to be eligible for a Pell Grant, you must be enrolled in a college program that leads to an associate degree, bachelor's degree, or a certificate, and the school must be "Title IV-eligible." Pell Grants are not available to fund graduate degrees (for example: an MBA, a law school degree, or a doctorate). Most of the nation's colleges, universities and vocational schools are eligible to participate in the federal government's financial aid programs, including Pell Grants and low-cost federal loans, but you should be aware that not every school can or does. If you need federal financial aid to pay for college, make sure you set your sights on a Title IV-eligible school.

Again, to get a Federal Pell Grant, you have to submit the FAFSA. If you are eligible to receive a Pell award, your school will take into account your enrollment status and determine just how much you will receive. In addition, the federal government sends your Pell Grant money directly to your school, which can then disburse funds to you.  As a general rule, Pell Grants are typically applied against your tuition and fees and other expenses charged to your school account. That means you may receive little, if any, cash directly from your Pell Grant.

Keep in mind that Pell Grants are just one source of financial aid. Completing the FAFSA also enables you to be considered for other federal grant programs and federal student loans, including very-low-rate Perkins and Subsidized Stafford loans, and Unsubsidized Stafford loans. offers a guide to financial aid programs, including Pell Grants, as well as practical tips that will help you get that FAFSA completed sooner rather than later. You can apply for a Federal Pell Grant at any time, but the FAFSA also is used to determine your eligibility for grants provided by states and by many institutions, and most states and schools do impose strict application deadlines. Click here for details on state grant programs and their deadlines.

Barbara Thompson is Manager of USA Funds University.

Updated February 4, 2015.

Related posts:

Maximum Federal Pell Grant Will Rise to $5,775 for 2015-16 Award Year

2014-15 Maximum Pell Grant Award Set to Rise to $5,730

Got Pell Grant Questions? We’ve Got Answers

Real-World FAQs about Federal Pell Grants

Employ the Free FAFSA4caster to Explore Eligibility for 2014-2015 Financial Aid

The FAFSA Clock is Ticking  —  It's Never Too Early to File Your FAFSA to Apply for Financial Aid

Completing the FAFSA  Where Do I Start?






Comments for Maximum Federal Pell Grant Increasing to $5,645

Name: jarred white
Time: Sunday, July 27, 2014

I am curious about the grant. I just got out of the military and would like to pursue an education

Name: Patricia Scherschel, CollegeUp Blog Administrator
Time: Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jarred White:

In response to the comment/query you posted July 27, 2014:

We shared your post with Sue Allmon, a regular contributor to the blog and a financial aid expert. This is her advice:

"To participate in the federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant program, you will need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to provide the school you are planning to attend with the data it needs to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. You can complete and submit an online FAFSA at this link: To learn more about the FAFSA and federal grant programs, you should check out as well as the government’s financial aid information site at You also should make an appointment to talk with the veterans affairs officer at your school to determine if you have military benefits and how you can use your GI Bill resources in combination with your federal financial aid possibilities to create a complete, robust financial aid package for you."

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