When I got married, my wife and I were so excited to start our life together. We were independent from our parents, we were finally allowed to stay indoors after curfew, we were excited to face the world — and we were slapped in the face by unexpected school expenses within a week or two, to the tune of $750.

If you just said “ouch”, all I can say is that you have no idea unless you’ve been there (and let’s be honest; many of you probably have).

The Setup

You see, I only registered for 5 credits that semester. I thought it would be a good idea to study less, work more, and save up a little money to improve our poor-college-student situation. We expected the incoming Pell grants would cover all but about $100 of our tuition because BYU tuition is cheap and the government is relatively generous to poor kids without parental support.

There’s a PDF out there that tells you how much Pell grant money you’ll get according to credits registered and financial need. It’s not labeled very well and I have yet to find a page on BYU’s website that explains it.

I wasn’t inclined to ask too many questions. I don’t know why. But I figured I’d get a portion of the total grant money I was eligible for in proportion to the credits I’d decided to take.

The Problem

Boy, was I wrong. Apparently, 5 credits is worth about $727 to the government, whereas 6 (yes, just one more) is worth twice that.

So we ended up with half of what we were expecting. We talked to the financial aid office. We tried to add a credit to no avail. It was four days past the add/drop deadline, and we had no viable option but to take the hit ourselves.

The Help

I don’t want anyone I know to have to deal with this same thing. No one should have to panic like we did just a few weeks after a blissful wedding. So, for all you engaged folks out there, here’s the cheat sheet:

Note: This table assumes that your expected family contribution (EFC) is $0. Most commonly, this will apply to married students, students over 24 years old, and those who are/were emancipated minors (i.e. legally independent of their parent/guardian prior to age 18).

Maximum Pell Grant Award per Credit*
Type Credits Amount
> Half-Time 0 – 5.5 $727.00
Half-Time 6 – 8.5 $1454.00
3/4-Time 9 – 11.5 $2180.50
Full-Time 12 + $2907.50

* This table is current as of January 2017 and will be updated as new Pell Grant award information is available.

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