A laptop is a very important item for studies, and to reduce the technology gap that may exist. Unfortunately, some of us just don’t have enough funds to buy a laptop. The good news is that you can get that PC with a Pell Grant if you qualify for it. So, we will talk about how to use Pell Grant to buy laptop. It isn’t as simple as it looks, especially because your school typically keeps the money. Don’t worry—you will learn just the proper way to access the Pell Grant for a new laptop.
Note that the Pell Grant is not a loan; therefore, you do not have to repay this money to the government or the school. You will get to understand better as you read this post to the end.
What is a Pell Grant?
A Pell Grant is a financial aid based on need. The U.S. Department of Education gives this free money to students who don’t have much money to help pay for college things such as tuition, fees, room and board, and other school costs. For you to receive this grant and buy a laptop, you have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The Pell Grant is the biggest grant program that the Department of Education offers to people in undergraduate studies. It started in 1972 and has been giving grants since the 1973-1974 school year. It’s named after Senator Claiborne Pell from Rhode Island, who was the main person behind starting this program.
How to Use Pell Grant to Buy Laptop
1. Apply for FAFSA
You just need to fill out the FAFSA to figure out if you can get a Pell Grant. Then the school uses your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) from the FAFSA to decide how much money you get. Filling out the FAFSA is the easiest way to apply for aid, but it can be confusing if it is your first time or if you are the first in your family to go to college. You can begin your FAFSA application here.
Unlike some other grants, Pell Grant money doesn’t run out each year. But you should still do the FAFSA early because other financial aid might be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. I advise you to still fill out the FAFSA even if you think you won’t get a Pell Grant. The FAFSA is required for all federal financial aid, not just Pell Grants and most students who apply get some kind of aid. The federal deadline for the FAFSA is June 30, but some states and schools have earlier deadlines. Every year, students have to apply again for financial aid. Whether you receive a Pell Grant each year depends on your financial situation at that time. So, you might not get a Pell Grant one year but could be eligible for it in other years to buy a laptop.
2. Wait for the Disbursement
Colleges and universities give out the Pell Grant money directly to students through payments called disbursements. The school then gets the money back from the federal government. Usually, a school will first use the Pell Grant to pay for things such as tuition fees, and room and board.
3. Use Pell Grant to Buy Laptop
Next, if there is money left after the disbursement, you will receive a credit. What you can do with this credit depends on the school, which can be to buy a laptop for your studies. You can use your Pell Grant money for books, up to a certain amount, and other school costs.
You will usually get your Pell Grant money sometime during the semester. When and how you get paid depends on your school. Some colleges might give the money as early as 10 days before classes start, while others might spread it out in monthly payments.
4. Don’t Repay the Funds
Usually, you don’t have to pay back Pell Grants, but there are a few times when you might have to. For example, if you drop out of classes or change how many classes you are taking after getting a Pell Grant, you might need to pay it back. While the Pell Grant is a big aid, it’s just one part of what financial aid can offer.
There are other types of aid too, such as student loans that you do need to pay back, or the federal work-study program where you work to earn money. The Pell Grant is really helpful at any college, whether you want to buy a PC or use it on other school items. For a student who travels to school and gets the most Pell Grant money, it can pay for about half of your school costs.
How Much Money Can I Get from a Pell Grant for a Laptop?
The amount you get from a Pell Grant depends on how many classes you are taking (full-time or part-time), your expected family contribution (EFC), how much it costs to go to your school, and whether you’ll be in school for the whole year or less. Schools use a chart from the U.S. Department of Education that is updated every year to figure out how much each student gets. This chart considers all these factors.
As we have mentioned earlier, you need to fill out the FAFSA every year if you want to keep getting money from the Pell Grant. Since the information you put in the FAFSA can change each year, your EFC might change too, which means the amount of money you get from the Pell Grant can be different each year. But, getting other kinds of financial aid won’t change how much money you receive from the Pell Grant.
The real difference a Pell Grant makes depends a lot on the college you go to. At a community college, it might pay for everything, but at some 4-year colleges, it might not cover much. Unfortunately, the Pell Grant hasn’t kept up with how expensive education is. It’s been like this for years, maybe even decades.
The amount of money you get from the Pell Grant also depends on the budget Congress decides on each year. In December 2022, President Joe Biden signed a law that added $500 to the maximum Pell Grant. So, for the 2023-2024 year, the most you can get is $7,395 and the least is $750. The highest EFC you can have and still get a Pell Grant is $6,656. The Pell Grant amount you get is for the whole school year, from July 1 to June 30.
If your family’s money situation changes after you fill out the FAFSA, let’s say if a parent loses their job or has big medical bills, you can ask your school for more financial aid, and you might get a larger Pell Grant payout that will be more than enough for a laptop.
Who Receives a Pell Grant?
The Pell Grant is different from other types of financial aid because it doesn’t matter which school you go to, as long as the school takes part in the federal student aid program. To be able to get a Pell Grant, you need to show that you need financial help on the FAFSA, be a U.S. citizen or a noncitizen who’s allowed to get aid, and not already have a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. Usually, graduate students can’t get Pell Grants, but if you are studying to become a teacher after already having a degree, you might be able to get one.
Right now, if you are in prison or have certain criminal convictions, you usually can’t get a Pell Grant to buy a laptop or pay your fees. However, there’s a special program called Second Chance that’s working with 200 colleges to let some prisoners take college courses. When someone gets out of prison, they might be able to get federal student aid again.
Starting from July 1, 2023, all students in prison who are in eligible education programs will be able to get Pell Grants. You can lose your Pell Grant if you drop out of classes, don’t stay enrolled as required, or don’t keep up your grades or other school progress rules, which can be different at each school.
Unfortunately, there is a limit on how much you can get over your lifetime. The government says you can only get Pell Grant money equal to about 6 years or 12 semesters. This rule was set in 2012, changing the old limit from 18 semesters to 12.
You can also get extra money for summer classes, called a summer Pell Grant or year-round Pell, which you can still put into buying a new laptop. As long as you haven’t reached your lifetime limit, you can get up to 150% of your usual grant in a year.
For example, if you usually get $4,000 a year, you might get $2,000 for fall and $2,000 for spring. If you are allowed to get 150%, you could get another $2,000 for summer classes.
We have been able to discuss the simple steps any qualified student can follow to receive and use Pell Grant to buy laptop. Just make sure to invest in a laptop that will handle your academic activities. Do not buy a laptop using Pell Grant money with the intention of gaming or any other unproductive use. With this laptop, you should be looking at learning trends, such as AI, coding, etc., and taking care of your academic stuff.