Just because you're attending school part-time doesn't mean you're not eligible for federal student aid. Your Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, helps determine just how much money you should be expected to contribute to your tuition costs, and how much aid you can anticipate from the government. As long as you meet attendance and degree program criteria, you may be eligible for federal financial aid for part-time students that can include student loans as well as the Pell Grant.
FAFSA Part-Time Student Requirements
To be eligible for federal student aid you are required to register for at least six credits with a recognized post-secondary school and be working towards a degree or certificate. Anything less than six credits requires you to pay out of pocket for tuition or find a private student-loan company willing to extend you the necessary funds to attend school. Without a loan, you may be required to pay the entire tuition balance before your classes begin. Failure to pay the balance may result in your name being dropped from class rosters.
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Part-Time First-Year Students
If you are a first-year undergraduate student who is considered a dependent, you may borrow a maximum of $5,500, as of 2021, in federal student aid. You are considered a dependent if your parents claim you as such for tax purposes. If you are an undergraduate who is considered an independent, the amount for this type of financial aid for part time students increases to $9,500.
FAFSA classifies you as a first-, second- and third-year student by credit hour, not actual time spent at school. As a result, you could remain a first-year student for federal aid purposes because of your part-time schedule and limited credit hours per semester.
Second- and Third-Year Students
As a second-year dependent undergraduate student in 2021, you may receive a maximum of $6,500 in federal student loan money. This amount increases to $10,500 if you are an independent undergraduate student. Undergraduate student loan money at the federal level caps at the third year. You may borrow a maximum of $7,500 if you're a dependent student and $12,500 if you're an independent student.
The total maximum amount of federal student aid you may borrow at the undergraduate level is $31,000 if you're a dependent student, and $57,500 if you're an independent undergraduate.
Federal Pell Grants
If you are eligible for federal student aid, your information will automatically be checked to see if you qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. This form of full-time and half-time financial aid is based on financial need. Unlike a student loan, you are not required to pay back a Pell Grant.
The cost of your tuition can factor into how much Pell Grant money you receive. Since part-time tuition is much lower than the tuition of a student attending school full-time, your Pell Grant money may also be lower. As of 2021, the maximum Pell Grant award is $6,495 per academic year.