Students are eligible for federal Pell Grants if they are U.S. citizens or qualified resident aliens enrolled in college undergraduate or teacher certification programs, reports Federal Student Aid. The amount of aid depends on the student's financial need, the cost of the school and the student's schedule of attendance.
To obtain a federal Pell Grant, students must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, explains the U.S. Department of Education. Based on the information students provide in the FAFSA, including the income and assets of the student and parents, the size of the family, and the amount of family members pursuing postsecondary education, the DOE determines the student's expected family contribution. The DOE uses this along with the expected cost of the educational institution, the full-time or part-time enrollment status of the student, and whether the student intends to complete a full or partial year of study to calculate the specific Pell Grant award.
Students who are incarcerated or performing civil commitments for sexual offenses are not eligible for federal Pell Grants, points out Federal Student Aid. Once the DOE awards Pell Grants, students must maintain their eligibility by filling out a FAFSA every year and maintaining satisfactory academic progress. The DOE does not send Pell Grant awards directly to students but to the educational institutions, and the schools either use the awards for educational expenses or distribute the funds to the students.