What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money?

What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money – Overview

A Pell Grant can be an invaluable resource to finance your higher education. This is especially true if you belong to a low-income household. As opposed to student loans, Pell Grants do not need to be repaid. They can cover educational expenses such as tuition, fees, and room and board.

However, have you ever wondered what happens to the unused Pell Grant money?

If you have an amount remaining after paying off your educational expenses, you may be concerned about losing the money. However, in some cases, you can get the remaining funds from your Pell Grant and pay for other education-related expenses.

Here are some common aspects of the Pell Grant that every applicant and recipient should be aware of:

What are Pell Grants?

Pell Grants are specially designed for undergraduate students with significant financial needs to pursue a college education.

The federal government distributes the Pell Grant to help recipients pay for a portion of their college education expenses. The specific award amount under the Pell Grant varies every year. For the 2022-23 academic year, the maximum Pell Grant award was $6,895.

However, the amount you receive is based on your income and the school’s cost of attendance.

You can receive Pell Grants for the equivalent of up to six years (12 semesters). On the other hand, if you take longer than that to finish your education, you will need to find another financial source to cover your college expenses.

Who is Eligible for Pell Grants?

What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money

What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money – Who Is Eligible for Pell Grants?

As the Pell Grant is a federal aid program, you must fulfill basic eligibility for federal student aid to be considered for a grant. To help you understand the seemingly complex requirements, we have explained the eligibility criteria in detail below:

– Have a high school diploma, GED, or approved homeschool education

– Be enrolled in, or accepted to, an eligible degree/certificate program (You can check with your school’s financial aid office to confirm eligibility)

– Be registered with Selective Service if you are a male and between 18 and 25 years old (if applicable, register at https://www.sss.gov/register/)

– Have a valid Social Security Number (unless you are from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau)

– Sign statements on the FAFSA stating that:

  • You are not in default and do not owe refund money on a federal student loan, and
  • You will only use federal aid money to help pay for your education

You can access the FAFSA website here: https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa

  • Maintain satisfactory progress in school (you can meet with a school administrator or the dean to know the defined meaning of ‘satisfactory’ for your school)

Apart from the above criteria, you will also need to fulfill at least one of the criteria listed below:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a Green Card
  • Have an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94)
  • Have battered immigrant status
  • Have a T-Visa

All the above-listed requirements are necessary to be eligible and to apply for and receive federal financial aid in the form of Pell Grants.

How Do Pell Grants Work?

Pell Grants are distributed depending on your college if you successfully qualify. Some schools or colleges will transfer the Pell Grant amount to your account or pay you directly.

Your college is responsible for notifying you in writing the amount you are eligible to receive in Pell Grants and the date the payment will be made. Colleges must disburse grant amounts at least once per term, while some colleges can have multiple disbursement dates.

What Happens to Unused Pell Grant Money?

Depending on your college attendance cost and other financial aid you receive, you may get more in Pell Grants than you need.

Once the college applies for the Pell Grant to your outstanding tuition and other fees, you may have some remaining untouched in Pell Grant. In such cases, the college will issue a Pell Grant refund. You can use this amount to pay for other education-related expenses, such as transportation and board.

The time taken for a refund varies from college to college. You can find more details about this.


A Pell Grant benefits low-income individuals pursuing an undergraduate degree, with a maximum award exceeding $6,000 for the academic year.

These are grants and not loans, so you don’t need to worry about repaying the Pell Grant amount. Contact your college’s financial aid office for further queries and questions.

See Also

Pell Grants in Texas

Pell Grants for Single Moms

Pell Grants in Georgia

Housing Assistance for Single Mothers

Hardship Grants for Single Mothers

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