The Difference Between a Federal Pell Grant and the FSEOG

Almost everyone needs financial aid of some sort or another when attending college. Students, and their parents, compete for millions of dollars in scholarships, grants, fellowships and other financial awards. There are however, many households that demonstrate a significantly high level of need, and for these individuals there are many federally subsidized options.

One of the primary products that guidance counselors and college financial aid officers rely on to obtain funding for students in need is the Federal Pell Grant. This is not a loan, does not need to be repaid in any way, and is usually referred to as “the foundation of federal student financial aid” because it is the first step in obtaining additional funds from other sources.

For a student or family to receive some other popular grants they must have been awarded a Federal Pell Grant. Colleges will always be able to meet the funding needs of their Pell Grant students because the federal government delivers the entire sum required.

Students who receive the Pell Grant do not need to worry about any other funding or aid they will receive impacting the amount of their Pell Grant, the enrollment status of a student however does effect the amount awarded. A student not enrolled for the full academic year, or one who is only a “part-time” student will not be granted the same funding as a full time, full year student.

Once the Pell Grant has been awarded any additional financial needs for students in exceptional financial need, can be met through a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG. These are funds awarded by the school, not by a government agency. Each year certain schools receive FSEOG funds, and must use them or face the reduction or even elimination of the grant the following year.

A student cannot access FSEOG funds unless they have been awarded a Pell Grant (More on Pell Grant Eligibility Criteria). While full time status is not a requirement for FSEOG funding, receiving additional assistance does reduce the amount available to a student.

While these seem like vary basic differences, the amounts awarded can vary dramatically from situation to situation and it is very important that a student, and their family, work quickly to get their Pell Grant amount “set in stone” in order to pursue their FSEOG funds as soon as possible. Because the FSEOG funds available at each school varies, and are issued on a “first come first served” basis, it is critical to apply for them very early.