Comparing a Federal Pell Grant to a Federal Stafford Loan

A Federal Pell Grant and a Federal Stafford Loan are two types of financial aid offered to students who need help paying for higher education expenses.

Federal Pell Grant


A Federal Pell Grant is a need-based financial aid program that does not require repayment. Eligibility is based on a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is determined using the following information:

  • household income
  • household size
  • cost of attending the institution
  • length of attendance
  • enrollment status (full- or part-time student)

Most Pell Grant recipients have a calculated EFC that is below $30,000.

Federal Stafford Loan

A Federal Stafford Loan has fewer eligibility requirements than many other student loans, such as Perkins and PLUS loans. Unlike a Pell Grant, a Federal Stafford Loan must be repaid to the government. Repayment generally begins six months after the qualified student graduates. Federal Stafford Loans offer low interest rates and flexible terms.

Similar Application Procedures


For both a Federal Pell Grant and a Federal Stafford Loan, applicants must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility. You can download a FAFSA on-line to begin the process of applying for financial aid.



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