Report: More Students Can Get Pell Grants Through New FAFSA

Nearly half of students previously ineligible for a Pell Grant could be recipients through the Simplified FAFSA.
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Matthew Arrojas
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Matthew Arrojas is a news reporter at BestColleges covering higher education issues and policy. He previously worked as the hospitality and tourism news reporter at the South Florida Business Journal. He also covered higher education policy issues as...
Published on March 30, 2023
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Darlene Earnest is a copy editor for BestColleges. She has had an extensive editing career at several news organizations, including The Virginian-Pilot and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also has completed programs for editors offered by the D...
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  • A new analysis projects about 43% of previously ineligible students may receive a Pell Grant through the new FAFSA.
  • The "Simplified FAFSA" changes the formula for how the government awards financial aid.
  • While promising, the group behind this analysis says the 43% figure may be inflated due to limited public data.

Millions of students previously ineligible for Pell Grants could soon find Pell money in their pockets thanks to an upcoming change.

Federal Student Aid (FSA) plans to release a new-and-improved version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form this December for the 2024-25 academic year. The new form — referred to as the Simplified FAFSA — will change how the federal government determines who should receive Pell Grants. And the new calculation could benefit students previously left out of the program.

The Pell Grant is the primary grant from the federal government aimed at low- and middle-income students. It helped over 6 million students afford college in the 2021-22 school year.

An analysis from State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) projects that 42.9% of students previously ineligible for a Pell Grant may become eligible under the Simplified FAFSA. That's approximately 2.1 million more students than under the old formula.

SHEEO's report uses data from 30 states.

The new Pell Grant calculations will overwhelmingly help, not hurt, students. Still, SHEEO's analysis found approximately 8,000 instances where students previously eligible for a Pell Grant would no longer be eligible. That impacts roughly 0.1% of eligible students.

Students already eligible for Pell Grants may see their awards increase, according to the SHEEO report.

According to the SHEEO report, 84.6% of students already eligible under the existing formula will see their Pell award increase by up to $8,800. Awards will increase by $1,000 or more for 78.2% of students who already receive a Pell Grant.

Approximately 7.8% will see their award decrease, while 7.6% will see awards remain the same.

This report comes with a caveat.

SHEEO's analysis considers anybody who did not receive a Pell Grant during the 2017-18 award year as "ineligible." However, in some instances, students are eligible for a Pell Grant but don't receive any award money. This means the 42.9% figure may be slightly inflated, although it's unlikely to be a significant overstatement.