Maximum and Average Pell Grants over Time

The maximum Pell Grant amount, which is legislated by Congress, has fluctuated over time. The $5,920 maximum Pell Grant in 2017-18 was 44% higher in inflation-adjusted dollars than it was 20 years earlier, but only 5% higher than it was 40 years earlier, in 1977-78.

Figure 21A: Maximum and Average Pell Grants in 2017 Dollars, 1977-78 to 2017-18

Notes & Sources 

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report, 1977-78 through 2016-17; U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Data Center, Title IV Program Volume Reports and Aid Recipients Summary; calculations by the authors.

  • The maximum Pell Grant is the most frequently cited measure of per-student subsidies provided by the program. However, most students receive smaller grants because they are enrolled part time or because their family incomes and assets reduce their aid eligibility. In 2017-18, when the maximum Pell Grant was $5,920, the average grant was $4,010.