College Financial Aid Info/Pell grant


Hi Steve,

I am about to enter my third semester of college. As with both of my previous semesters, my tuition and books are completely covered by a Pell grant.
For the past two semesters, I've taken a full course load (4 classes, 16 credit hours), and the remainder of my grant has been disbursed in full.
This semester, however, I am planning on taking fewer classes - probably just two or three. According to my calculations, more than half of my $2,750 grant will be left over after tuition and textbooks have been paid for.

My question is this - and I understand if you can't answer, since every school may be different - but should I expect all of that remaining money back, or will it be somehow 'prorated' because I'm taking fewer classes?


Hi Patrick:

Pell Grants are sensitive to a number of factors: Expected Family Contribution (EFC), Cost of Attendance (COA), number of credit hours attempted and the length of your attendance during what is called the "payment period".  Classically, the "payment period" is the same as the semester.

With the above having been said, lets assume that your EFC (and the formula that is attached to it) and the length of your payment period (semester) hasn't changed.  Since you're going to take fewer classes, this affects your:

1) Number of credits attempted; and;
2) COA.

As a consequence, it is entirely within the realm of possibility you will receive a smaller Pell Grant disbursement.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you how much less based on your description.

If you have not made the financial aid office aware of your plans regarding your change in enrollment, I would suggest you do so the minute the school's financial aid office returns from the holiday break.  DO NOT ASSUME THE REGISTRAR'S OFFICE WILL DO IT FOR YOU.  If you wait and the school disburses funds based on your prior plans, it could lead to a situation where they overpay you.  You do not want them to overpay you, as it can complicate your relationship with the school.

*PLEASE NOTE: The above is an opinion, based on experience as a student, a Federal Student Aid and a former research specialist for the U.S. Department of Education's Ombudsman Group.  I reserve the right to be incorrect, as I do not have access to any information other than what you've provided to me.  NOTHING in this reply is meant to replace, modify or criticize your school's financial aid office.  If the school's financial aid office tells you something different, then I respectfully ask that you accept their answer in place of mine.  If you find this information useful, please rate me when the AllExperts site gives you the opportunity.

College Financial Aid Info

All Answers

Ask Experts


Steve McKnelly


I am well versed on issues surrounding post-secondary federal student aid, as administered by the U.S. Department of Education. This includes Stafford and Perkins loans as well as Pell and FSEOG grants. If a question is fielded concerning private student aid, such as career loans issued by a private lender, I may not be able to answer the question.


I worked for a federal contractor on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. I worked in the Federal Student Aid Information Center for 11 months; the Default Resolution Group for 7 months; and as a research specialist for the Ombudsman Group for 11 years. I was considered a subject matter expert in bankruptcy and litigation, relative to federal student loans.

Phi Theta Kappa Mu Alpha Theta

Associates of Applied Science in Business Administration Paralegal Certificate

Past/Present Clients
Too many to name and their identities are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974 as well as the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]