Federal Pell Grant Awards in Current and Constant Dollars over Time

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The $32.3 billion in Pell Grants awarded in 2012-13 represented a 5% decline (in constant dollars) from 2011-12, but this amount is double the 2007-08 expenditures ($16.1 billion) in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Table 8: Federal Pell Grant Awards in Current and Constant Dollars, 1977-78 to 2012-13, Selected Years
Notes & Sources 

NOTE: Until 1984-85, individual Pell Grants were capped at 50% of the student's cost of attendance. The cap was raised to 60% of the cost of attendance in 1985-86 and removed entirely in 1993.

SOURCES: The Federal Pell Grant Program End of Year Report, 2011-12Federal Student Aid Data Center; unpublished data from U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education.

  • The maximum Pell Grant decreased from $4,230 (in 2012 Dollars) in 1982-83 to $3,914 in 1992-93. The maximum grant increased to $5,088 (in 2012 Dollars) by 2002-03. The $5,550 maximum grant in 2012-13 represents a 10% increase beyond inflation over the decade.
  • The percentage of Pell Grant recipients who are independent, with eligibility determined by their own financial circumstances and not those of their parents, rose from 13% in 1973-74 and 39% in 1977-78, to 62% in 1992-93.  In 2011-12, 59% were independent.
  • The number of Pell Grant recipients more than doubled, from 4.0 million in 2002-03 to 8.8 million in 2012-13.