NOTE: Please read the comments after reading this post. Some people have had different experiences than I’ve had, and they’ve kindly shared their experiences below.
The short answer is: Yes, it is possible, it is legal, it is not “frowned upon” to receive the Pell Grant and GI Bill (I thought it would be “frowned upon” when I first heard of this idea… maybe you don’t have those thoughts). But please read on, because not everybody qualifies for the Pell Grant.
I am currently receiving the Pell Grant and GI Bill benefits, and I know of at least one other person who goes to my college who does the same thing. I do not have a job, so receiving both benefits definitely helps.
Who Qualifies to use the Pell Grant?
Please refer to the Federal Pell Grant Program website. Dont worry, this is a very good website with a lot of good information. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for there.
One thing is for certain, first you must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
How Much Can I Get From the Pell Grant?
The Pell Grant offers up to $5,550 per year, if you’re attending school full time. The first time I applied (in October 2012) I was eligible for, and received, the full $5,550 (in two separate payments).
It is important to note that I said UP TO $5,550. Each individual circumstance will vary. You may or may not qualify for the full amount, depending on things such as:
- If/where you work and how much you are paid
- Who you live with/How many people you live with
- Basically any method which assists your ability to sustain your life could affect your Pell Grant eligibility (living with a buddy in an apartment would be a benefit over living by yourself, since you can split the cost of rent and other bills)
It definitely is possible to receive the Pell Grant and GI Bill at the same time, but don’t assume you can get both. The Pell Grant is a need-based grant that does not have to be paid back.
The first time I applied in October 2012, I was living with my brother, sharing rent in a modular home. I had no job, I was paying off an auto loan and a personal loan, and I qualified for the full $5,550.
What is Your Experience with the Pell Grant and GI Bill Combo?
Please share your experiences with us in the comments, so others can gain from your experiences.
Update: September 13, 2013 – If Your College Pays Your Tuition With Your Pell Grant Money Before The VA Pays Them – READ THIS
A user by the name of Octagonaway from the Terminal Lance Forums has directed me to a very useful document. The document is the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs School Certifying Official Handbook.
There is a specific excerpt that states how schools are supposed to handle reporting tuition to VA. Here is the excerpt:
Effective August 1, 2011 – Tuition & Fees
Public Law 111-377 changes the amount of tuition and fee charges that should be reported to VA. For periods of enrollment beginning on or after August 1, 2011, you should report the following charges:
The actual net cost for in-state tuition and fees assessed by the institution for the program of education after the application of any waiver of, or reduction in, tuition and fees; and any scholarship, or other Federal, State, institutional or employer-based aid or assistance (excluding loans and title IV funds) that is provided directly to the institution and specifically designated for the sole purpose of defraying tuition and fees.
Example: Student gross in-state charges $4,000
Veteran Discount – 400
Tuition Scholarship -2,000
Title IV (ex. Pell Grant) * 2,500
General Scholarship* 1,000
Net In-State Charges $1,600
* Denotes to exclude calculating net cost
Aid or assistance that is designated for the sole purpose of reducing a student’s tuition and fee cost should be deducted from the net in-state charges reported to VA.
In the above example the student also has a $1,000 scholarship from a local Veterans Service Organization. The scholarship is general in nature and may be used to defray school costs such as food, housing, books, etc. Since it’s not “specifically designated for the sole purpose of defraying tuition and fees, “it is not deducted from the charges submitted to VA.
Only in-state charges should be reported in the Tuition Amount and Fee Amount fields. Any additional out-of-state net charges should be reported in the Out of State Charges field if a contribution is being made under the Yellow Ribbon Program.
From the above excerpt, you can see that the funds awarded for the Pell Grant should NOT be considered when reporting tuition to the VA.
It even states the Pell Grant as a specific example.
What Can You Do With This Information?
It may be beneficial to contact your VA office (their number should be on the statement of benefits you receive from them in the mail) and let them know, if your school is automatically applying your GI Bill funds to your tuition. The GI Bill is NOT a fund that SPECIFICALLY reduces tuition. It is a general fund that can also be used to offset personal food, books and other necessities.
I cannot guarantee anything. I am just presenting you with this information. The path you take is really up to you.
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