Pennsylvania State Grant Program FAQ

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What is a grant?

A grant is a financial aid award that you do not have to repay provided you meet the eligibility requirements.

What is the Pennsylvania State Grant Program?

The Pennsylvania State Grant Program is a financial assistance program that provides funding to eligible Pennsylvanians and helps them afford the costs of higher education.

PHEAA administers the Pennsylvania State Grant Program at no cost to taxpayers, ensuring that every dollar appropriated to the program goes directly to students.

Funding for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program may be paid in part or in whole by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

How do you determine my Pennsylvania State Grant eligibility?

PHEAA's Board of Directors annually reviews and approves the formula for determining need. If you meet all the eligibility requirements, we calculate State Grant eligibility in accordance with the federal need analysis formula, Pennsylvania State Grant policies, and the Board-approved formula.

In May, conditional eligibility for the upcoming academic year is usually available in Account Access to provide you with an estimate of the amount you may be eligible to receive at the school listed as your first choice on the FAFSA®.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania appropriates funding for State Grant awards through its annual budget process. Therefore, PHEAA does not know how much funding will be available and cannot determine the final amount of your specific award until after the budget is passed usually in late June.

Once awards are finalized, the State Grant Program Manual (PDF) is published to provide you with the calculation details.

Does it matter if another member of my family is also enrolled in college?

Yes. If you and another member of your family (excluding your parents if you are a dependent applicant) are enrolled in postsecondary institutions during the same academic year, PHEAA will consider this fact when determining your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Am I eligible for a State Grant if I am disabled and must take all of my classes through distance education?

If you have a medical disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and you are enrolled in a program of study that is structured to allow you to complete at least 50% of your credits or clock hours in the classroom, you may request an accommodation (exception) to the 50% in-classroom requirement of the State Grant Program. However, you must meet all other eligibility requirements, and you must provide ADA-supporting materials from your medical healthcare provider and the ADA Accommodation Request Form (PDF).

If your program is structured in a way that does not allow for at least 50% classroom instruction, no exceptions can be made.

Why do you need to know my family's adjusted gross income to determine the amount of my State Grant? My family does not live on this income.

PHEAA uses your family's adjusted gross income (not your family's net federal taxable income) from the previous year to determine your eligibility for a State Grant.

By using your family's adjusted gross income, we ensure that we process all applicants in a uniform manner. If we were to use your family's net federal taxable income, then families who claim significantly more deductions on their taxes (for mortgage interest, real estate taxes, charitable contributions, or other similar deductions) would have an advantage over families who do not qualify for such deductions.

Be aware that your adjusted gross income is only one component that we use to calculate the amount of your State Grant award.

Does PHEAA use retirement contributions as untaxed income when determining State Grant eligibility?

Yes. You must report all current sources of untaxed income, including tax-deferred contributions to retirement plans or deferred annuity contributions, whether they are voluntary or involuntary.

If only contributions to voluntary plans—SEP (Simplified Employee Pension), SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers), Keogh, IRAs (individual retirement accounts), etc.—were to be considered when determining State Grant eligibility, families who must establish their own retirement plans would have a disadvantage compared to those who have retirement plans through an employer.

We do not consider any prior contributions to approved retirement plans, only those that were made in the applicable tax year.

Does the value of my Pennsylvania Treasury 529 College Savings Plan affect my State Grant?

No. The State Grant Form provides the opportunity for first time applicants to indicate if they participate in the Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Plan and to provide a value for the current value of those funds. Although you may need to include the value of Pennsylvania 529 College Savings funds as part of your assets on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), if you complete the appropriate information on the State Grant Form, PHEAA will not use the portion of your assets that are invested in a PA 529 College Savings Plan when determining eligibility for State Grant aid. All other 529 College Savings Plans are counted as assets on the FAFSA and for Pennsylvania State Grant purposes. For returning students, who reported asset values on the FAFSA, notify us of your Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Plan values by using the appropriate academic year Asset Clarification Form. You can find the form in the Pennsylvania State Grant Documents and Forms.

Learn more about the PA 529 College Savings Plan!

Do I have to be a Pennsylvania resident to get a Pennsylvania State Grant?

Yes, you must be a Pennsylvania resident, as outlined in the Pennsylvania State Grant law.

  • If you are 18 years of age or older—You must be a Pennsylvania resident for at least the 12 consecutive months before you file the FAFSA (excluding any time you are enrolled in a Pennsylvania postsecondary school, if you came into or remained in Pennsylvania for the purpose of attending a school or college).
  • If you are under 18 years of age—You must have a supporting parent or guardian who has been a Pennsylvania resident for at least the 12 consecutive months before you filed the FAFSA.
What is "domicile," and what does it have to do with my State Grant?

"Domicile" is another word for your true, fixed, and permanent home—the place to which you intend to return despite temporary residences elsewhere or a temporary absence. You must have Pennsylvania domicile in order to get a State Grant:

  • Students born and raised in Pennsylvania who attend college in another state do not relinquish their Pennsylvania domiciliary status simply because they are temporarily in another state. However, a student is no longer eligible for a State Grant if he or she attends college out of state and registers to vote in that state.
  • Students who enter Pennsylvania to attend college are not considered Pennsylvania domiciliaries.
  • Pennsylvania military personnel are presumed to maintain their Pennsylvania domicile even though they are stationed out of state or overseas, unless the family has taken steps to become residents of that state or country.
Must I be a high school graduate to qualify for a State Grant?

Yes. You must be a graduate of an approved high school, an approved overseas Department of Defense high school, a foreign high school that has obtained U.S. accreditation, or you must have a General Education Diploma (GED).

There are additional requirements if you received your diploma in one of the following ways:

  • Home schooling—If you are the recipient of a diploma issued as the result of completing a home education program or through a correspondence school, you meet the high school graduation requirement if one of the following is true:

    1. For diplomas issued after October 31, 2014, and as a result of Act 196, you possess a Supervisor issued, state-recognized home education diploma. The diploma must be issued using the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) template and a copy of this diploma must be submitted to PHEAA for verification. More information regarding these diplomas is available through the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.
    2. You've received certification from the Superintendent of your local school district which indicates that your home education program complies with the Home Education Law 24 PS 13-1327.1. The "Home Education Certification Form" can be obtained at PHEAA.org/forms under the "General Documents and Forms" section. You should request that the appropriate local school official complete the form.
    3. Your diploma was issued by one of the home education organizations (PDF) recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to issue diplomas.
  • A distance-learning or correspondence high school—If you have a diploma from a distance-learning or correspondence high school, you must obtain a Pennsylvania GED certificate and diploma, unless your diploma was issued by one of the approved operating Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Schools.
  • A foreign high school—If you graduated from a foreign high school that does not have U.S. accreditation, you may be eligible for the State Grant Program if you:

Where should I send my foreign high school transcript evaluation or GED?

Please mail copies of the documentation to:

PHEAA
P.O. Box 8157
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8157

Where can I find more information about the Pennsylvania GED?
What should I do before I apply?

Create an account through Account Access, an online student aid management tool operated by American Education Services, a division of PHEAA. You will be redirected to this site during the FAFSA process, so creating an account now will cut down on what you need to do in the future.

Here's some information that you'll want to have ready.

  • If applicable, the month and year your diploma was received (for High School or GED)
  • Your Social Security Number, not your parent's or guardian's. This will alleviate any processing issues.
  • If married, your spouse's 9-digit Social Security Number
  • If you have a Pennsylvania Treasury 529 College Savings Program account, you may need a recent account statement, or visit makecollegepossible.com.

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Apply/Renew

What is the deadline for State Grant applications?

The State Grant deadlines are different for first-time applicants, renewal applicants, and summer- term applicants.

I missed the State Grant filing deadline for the academic year. What should I do?

Submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible.

We may still consider applications received after the deadline for:

  • Applicants who have a loss in expected family income due to a recent (after January 1) death, disability, retirement, unemployment, divorce, or separation of a parent
  • Applicants who are recently discharged veterans

We may also consider a late application if extenuating circumstances delayed its filing. If there are no special circumstances, we will process a late State Grant application only if there are additional funds to continue processing.

Why must I complete both the FAFSA and the Pennsylvania State Grant Form?

We use the State Grant Form to collect a few more details about you and your family that aren't on the FAFSA to help us determine your eligibility and financial need for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program.

Why must I go to aesSuccess.org to complete the online Pennsylvania State Grant Form?

American Education Services (aesSuccess.org) is a division of PHEAA. It's where we maintain Account Access, our online account management tool. You must create an account and sign in to complete the Pennsylvania State Grant Form online.

You may also view the status of your State Grant, and make enrollment updates in Account Access.

Create an Account or Sign In

Here's some information that you'll want to have ready when you go online to apply:

  • If applicable, the month and year your diploma was received (for High School or GED)
  • Your Social Security Number, not your parent's or guardian's. This will alleviate any processing issues.
  • If married, your spouse's 9-digit Social Security Number
  • If you have a Pennsylvania Treasury 529 College Savings Program account, you may need a recent account statement, or visit makecollegepossible.com.
How do I complete the FAFSA if my parents do not financially support me?

Dependency status is among the more common errors made on the FAFSA. Before you complete the FAFSA, first make sure you meet the requirements for financial independence. PHEAA uses these criteria to determine independence, although you may be asked to provide documentation to verify your current status. If you cannot meet any of these requirements, PHEAA uses additional criteria to determine your financially independent status.

If PHEAA considers you financially independent, we will process your State Grant without your parents' financial data. However, if you receive direct support from your parents (money received or bills paid on your behalf), you need to report that support on the FAFSA application where it asks for:

"Money received, or paid on your behalf (e.g., bills), not reported elsewhere on this form."

Must I include my stepparent's information on the application?

Yes, even if your stepparent does not financially contribute to your education. If the birth or adoptive parent whose information is included on the FAFSA has remarried, you must report both that parent's and stepparent's income and assets.

Do I have to report the value of my family's home when I apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant?

No. But you must report the net worth (market value less remaining debt) of any second home or any other real estate investments.

Must I report all of my family's assets?

We do not consider any of the following assets when determining eligibility:

  • Qualified retirement account assets
  • The equity of your home (primary residence)
  • Pennsylvania Treasury 529 College Savings Plans

For the assets we do consider (such as an investment property), we allow you to subtract any remaining debt for which those assets are the collateral before we determine any expected contribution. For example, if you own an investment property with a market value of $50,000 and you have a mortgage of $30,000 on the property, PHEAA will use net assets of $20,000. Debt against your family's home cannot be used when determining the net worth of your family's other investments.

Does PHEAA provide any special processing for veterans for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program?

To be eligible for a Pennsylvania State Grant as a veteran applicant, you must:

  • Have engaged in active service with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard or have been a cadet or midshipman at one of the service academies
  • Have been released under a condition other than dishonorable, bad conduct, uncharacterized, or other than honorable conditions
  • If not a veteran now, be a veteran by June 30 of the academic year for which you are requesting aid

ROTC, current cadets or midshipmen at service academies, and National Guard or Reservists who were not activated for duty for other than state or training purposes are not considered veterans.

If you meet these requirements, PHEAA will disregard your Expected Family Contribution or any Pell award you may be eligible to receive. This means that you will receive the highest Pennsylvania State Grant possible, based on the allowable college costs for the school you are attending.

I've filled out the FAFSA, so why am I getting a message that you don't have my FAFSA data?

There are several reasons why you may get this message:

  • Your Social Security number doesn't match. If you didn't use the same Social Security number for your Account Access account and your FAFSA, we won't be able to match you to your FAFSA data.
  • You indicated that you are a graduate student. Students who already have a bachelor's degree are not eligible for a Pennsylvania State Grant. If this was a mistake, you must update your FAFSA.
  • You just submitted your FAFSA online. If you completed your FAFSA within the past 24–48 hours, please allow several days for processing time and then try again.
Why does my confirmation state my FAFSA is incomplete?

Most likely, you left some FAFSA questions blank (incomplete). The fields on the FAFSA most commonly left blank include the date you established your state of legal residence and the value of your cash, savings, checking, or investments.

Please check your FAFSA and provide information for any blank fields or incomplete answers.

What if I haven't yet decided on a school or been accepted?

The State Grant Form requires you to provide the name of a school. If you're unsure, list your first choice. Then, when you make your final decision, you can update your college information online in Account Access.

What are designated Pennsylvania Open-Admission institutions?

The Open-Admission schools that meet the USDE definition and were approved by the PHEAA Board of Directors for State Grant filing deadline purposes are:

  • Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
  • Gratz College
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
  • Lackawanna College
  • Peirce College
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • Pennsylvania Institute of Technology
  • Valley Forge Military College

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After You Apply/Renew

How do I make corrections to the information on my State Grant Form?
If You Have… Then…
Not yet mailed the final page of the State Grant Form

For enrollment changes, follow the instructions.

For changes not related to enrollment, make updates directly on the final page of your State Grant Form before you mail it.

Mailed your State Grant Form

Learn how to make corrections to your State Grant Record.

I need to submit my State Grant Form signature page. How do I do this?

To print and submit your State Grant Form signature page:

  • Sign in to Account Access.
  • Select the "Complete the PA State Grant Form" link.
  • In section 3, Confirmation, select the "View/Print Your PA State Grant Form" button and print the document.
  • Carefully read the "Applicant's Rights, Responsibilities, Use of Social Security Number, and Certification for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program."
  • Once you have read this document, sign the "Statement of Certification and Authorization" and return that page to:

    PHEAA
    State Grant & Special Programs
    P.O. Box 8157
    Harrisburg, PA 17105-8157

By signing the State Grant Form signature page, you are attesting that you have read and will abide by the "Applicant's Rights, Responsibilities, Use of Social Security Number and Certification for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program" document for this and each subsequent year for which you apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant.

Why am I getting a message that Account Access is currently unavailable?
  • Routine maintenance—Actual times vary, but we typically do routine maintenance on Sunday mornings before Noon (ET).
  • Unexpected technical difficulties—Unfortunately, unexpected technical difficulties could take a few minutes to a few hours to resolve. We apologize for any inconvenience and ask that you continue to try accessing your online State Grant Form.
What do I do if I decide to go to a different school than the one I listed on my State Grant Form?

If it is before August—Sign in to Account Access and provide your new school information (use the "Update School Information" link on your Pennsylvania State Grant Status).

If it is August or later—We cannot change your enrollment until we verify that you did not receive any portion of your State Grant through the school listed on your eligibility notice:

  • Contact the school listed on your eligibility notice so that they can confirm the status of the funds we sent to them on your behalf.
  • Sign in to Account Access and provide your new school information (use the "Update School Information" link on your Pennsylvania State Grant Status).
  • The school that you plan to attend may also update enrollment information for you.

NOTE: We cannot accept updates to change your enrollment if submitted:

  • After April 1, 2015 (for the 2014–2015 academic year)
  • After October 31, 2015 (for the 2015 summer term)
My family's income is less than it was when I submitted my State Grant Form. What should I do?

We provide special processing to students from families who have suffered a loss of income.

If Your Loss of Income Is Due to a Supporting Parent's: Then We May Process Your Application:
Recent death Without regard to your family income (for 1 academic year only)
Recent total and permanent disability (unable to return to any work) Without regard to your family income (for 1 academic year only)
Retirement or other change in employment status Using your estimated income for the year after you applied
Separation or divorce Using your estimated income for the year after you applied
Loss of untaxed income Using your estimated income for the year after you applied

Special processing may also be extended to those whose family had extraordinary, unreimbursed medical/dental expenses. Obtain reduced income forms or medical expense forms by:

How will I receive my State Grant funds?

PHEAA sends State Grant funds directly to your school. The school will then credit your account after first certifying your eligibility.

I have been notified that I am eligible for a State Grant but my school says they do not have it. What should I do?

Go to the Financial Aid Office and ask about your State Grant. (The Business Office and your academic advisor do not have access to State Grant information.)

The Financial Aid Office will contact State Grant & Special Programs if they have questions about your eligibility.

Can I use a Pennsylvania State Grant at a school located in another state?

Only schools located in reciprocal states are approved for participation in the Pennsylvania State Grant Program.

A reciprocal state is one that permits its own state grant funds to be used by students attending schools in Pennsylvania. States that continue to support students attending schools in Pennsylvania include Delaware, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont, and West Virginia. Students attending institutions in all other states are ineligible. With certain limited exceptions, institutions in Maryland, New Jersey and New York are not eligible.

Why do award amounts change?

The awarding formula—calculated every academic year—considers three primary factors:

  1. The funding provided for distributing awards
  2. The number of applicants for State Grants
  3. The financial need of the families of those applicants

In general, most students who qualify for a State Grant will also qualify the next year. However, the amount of your award can vary each year, depending on the three factors listed.

Is it possible to qualify for 1 academic year and not the next?

Yes. You must demonstrate financial need for a State Grant every year you apply, and you must continue to meet other eligibility requirements.

I am enrolled in a 5-year college program. Am I eligible to get a Pennsylvania State Grant to fund my 5th year?

There are very few "bona fide" 5-year programs in the United States (programs that require more than 4 years of full-time enrollment to complete). Bona fide 5-year programs do not include double majors or any additional time that is necessary to complete your degree due to class scheduling problems, etc.

If you are unsure whether your program is classified as a bona fide 5-year program, contact your Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Office must confirm your enrollment in an eligible program.

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PHEAA Reviews

Why might my State Grant eligibility be subject to a review?

Your State Grant eligibility may be subject to a review since the Pennsylvania State Grant Program is a financial assistance program that is funded in whole or in part by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. PHEAA is responsible for administering the State Grant Program and ensuring that the data provided by applicants meets the eligibility requirements.

How will I know if my State Grant Record is under review?

PHEAA will notify you either by email or by a letter to your permanent home address. Additionally, you may visit Account Access to check your Pennsylvania State Grant status.

How can I be prepared for a review of the information used to review my State Grant eligibility?
  1. Keep copies of your state and federal tax returns, wage and tax statements, and all supporting schedules and forms. Among other financial components, PHEAA uses your family's adjusted gross income (not your family's net federal taxable income) to determine your eligibility for a State Grant. If you and/or your spouse or your parent(s)/parent/stepparent has indicated that a federal tax return will not be filed and are requested to provide such, you will need to provide a signed statement indicating why one was not filed. If a PA state tax return was filed, then you should submit a copy of that return with the signed statement. Please note that you will want to keep copies of all tax return information for all applicable years in which you have received or applied for State Grant aid since prior applications can be subject to review at any time.
  2. Read the Rights and Responsibilities (PDF) information to understand what you have agreed to by providing your signature and accepting an award.
  3. Keep copies of proof of residence. This information may be questioned, particularly if you and/or your family moved to Pennsylvania within the past 5 years. It is recommended you keep state income tax returns, for example.
What are my responsibilities as a State Grant applicant or recipient?

Besides reading the Rights and Responsibilities (PDF) information to understand what you have agreed to by providing your signature and accepting an award, you should:

  1. Keep your email address up-to-date with State Grants & Special Programs. Many requests for data verification will be sent to the email address which you provided on your FAFSA or State Grant Form. If you are a dependent student, the email notification will also be sent to the parental email address, if that address is different from yours.
  2. Monitor your email. Requests for verification of data can happen even after school has begun and initial term funds have been applied to your school account. It is very important that you review your email account for any emails from the State Grant & Special Programs department of PHEAA.
  3. Keep your home address up-to-date with State Grants & Special Programs. You may update your home address in Account Access or by sending the change in writing to PHEAA, State Grant & Special Programs, PO Box 8157, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8157. If you are using a PO Box, you must also provide a physical address.
What do I need to know if I'm selected for a review?

If your State Grant record is selected for a review, you must TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY. Failure to respond to a review in a TIMELY manner with ALL information requested may result in one or more of the following:

  • A delay of funds being sent to your school, should you be eligible after the review
  • A delay in resolving the review resulting in PHEAA requests for additional information
  • Cancellation of your awards
  • Repayment of some or all of the State Grant funds that were previously disbursed to one or more schools on your behalf

Please note that most reviews require you to respond within 30 days. If you are unable to respond within 30 days, you should be aware that State Grant & Special Programs will not accept information after April 1 of the current academic year. For example, information for the 2015-16 academic year will not be accepted after April 1, 2016. If the request for information is dated after March 1 of the current academic year, you MUST contact PHEAA State Grant & Special Programs within 30 days.

I've submitted the requested information. How long will it take State Grant & Special Programs (PHEAA) to review my eligibility?

If your information is complete, it may take up to 4 to 6 weeks for PHEAA to verify or determine your eligibility. Student information is processed in order of date received.

I've been notified by PHEAA that the review of my record is complete and I am eligible. When can I expect to receive my funds?

If it is before August 1 and you are enrolled for the upcoming fall term, you can generally expect your term award to be sent to your school immediately after the term begins. Please keep in mind that your school must fulfill obligations to certify your enrollment and eligibility for each term prior to crediting the State Grant funds to your account. If your State Grant record is being reviewed during the term in which you are enrolled, you may experience a longer delay in receiving your funds. Your receipt of funds is dependent on when PHEAA makes a disbursement to your school and/or the time it takes your school to certify your eligibility and enrollment.

NOTE: Your award announcement must not indicate that your award is subject to finalization of the Commonwealth budget.

What can I do to protect my personal information while fulfilling a request for information?

When supplying information to State Grant & Special Programs, you must provide your full name and a numeric identifier. This may be the last four digits of your Social Security Number or your complete 10-digit PHEAA assigned account number. When supplying copies of forms such as tax returns, you must provide the associated names (i.e., your parents' names) but you may "white out" all but the last four digits of the Social Security Numbers. You may also review PHEAA's privacy policy.

Do my grades or GPA impact my State Grant award?

A specific grade point average is not a requirement for Pennsylvania State Grant eligibility. However, you must satisfactorily progress by completing the minimum number of credits commensurate with the State Grant awards you have received in the past. For more information, please refer to Section II: Major Eligibility Requirements for the State Grant Program under the "Academic Progress" section of the Rights and Responsibilities (PDF). Your school is responsible for reviewing your progress, correcting your State Grant record, and marking your term or terms ineligible when you fail to meet the requirement. You should consult with the Financial Aid Office at your school if you have questions regarding an ineligibility determination due to your lack of satisfactory academic progress.

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