Many students can fund a good chunk of their college tuition and fees with the Federal Pell Grant, money that doesn't have to be repaid. For the 2010-11 financial aid award year, the maximum amount you can receive actually increased from previous years. If you enroll for a full-time course load and find out you have a schedule that's too ambitious, you can always back off during subsequent school terms. Doing so doesn't mean you'll lose Pell Grant-eligibility; you just won't receive as much of the award.
The Federal Pell Grant program uses the concept of "Scheduled Award," which is the amount of the grant you'll receive based on full-time enrollment for a given estimated family contribution and cost of attendance. The Scheduled Award always assumes you're going to attend as a full-time student. The "Annual Award," on the other hand, considers your enrollment status and changes based on whether you're considered half time or less than half time. Your "Scheduled Award" is the same as your "Annual Award" if you're full time.
Part of the formula that helps calculate how much of the Pell Grant you'll receive takes your enrollment status into consideration. If you're attending a school with academic terms such as quarters or semesters, the school must figure out whether you're full time, three-quarters time, half time or less than half time. For programs without academic terms, the school only needs to determine whether you're enrolled at least half time or less than half time. Your enrollment status affects the formula the school uses to calculate your cost of attendance.
The Pell Grant uses a cost of attendance (COA) formula based on full-time enrollment. Since you're attending part time, the COA changes. A formula requires the school to use only certain allowable expenses for a less-than-half-time student, but these expenses do remain the same as if you were full time. For less than half-time enrollment, the COA calculation includes tuition and fees, an allowance for books and supplies, transportation and dependent care expenses. It does not figure in miscellaneous or personal expenses and only includes a limited amount for room and board, according to the Federal Student Aid website.
Schools use the estimated family contribution to calculate Pell Grant awards, no matter if you're full time or part time. Being considered full time with an EFC of "0" generally means you'll be awarded the maximum Pell Grant amount. If you enroll as a half-time student, though, the actual amount is halved. For example, if you're scheduled award for the 2010-11 academic year is the maximum of $5,550 and you enroll half time, you will actually receive $2,775 for the year. The same principle applies if you enroll for three-quarters time or less than half time.