Pell Grants: Total Expenditures, Maximum and Average Grant, and Number of Recipients over Time

Total Pell Grant expenditures increased from $16.5 billion (in 2014 dollars) in 2004-05 to a peak of $39.0 billion in 2010-11. In 2014-15, $30.3 billion in Pell Grants funded 8.2 million undergraduate students.

Figure 25: Total Pell Grant Expenditures, Maximum and Average Pell Grant in 2014 Dollars, and Number of Recipients, 1979-80 to 2014-15

Figure 25 represents Total Pell Grant Expenditures, Maximum and Average Pell Grant in 2014 Dollars, and Number of Recipients, 1979-80 to 2014-15. For a corresponding Section 508-compliant data table, see http://trends.collegeboard.org/student-aid.

Notes & Sources 

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, The Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report, 1979-80 through 2013-14; Federal Student Aid Data Center, Title IV Program Volume Reports; calculations by the authors.

  • Growth in Pell Grant expenditures is driven primarily by growth in the number of recipients.
  • Between 2004-05 and 2014-15, the number of students receiving Pell Grants grew by 55%, from 5.3 million to 8.2 million.
  • Over that time, the maximum grant increased by 12%, from $5,095 (in 2014 dollars) to $5,730.
  • The average grant increased by 18%, from $3,116 (in 2014 dollars) to $3,673 over the decade.
  • The percentage of Pell Grant recipients who are independent students, with eligibility determined by their own financial circumstances rather than those of their parents, declined from 61% in 2009-10 to 56% in 2013-14.