Maximum and Average Pell Grants over Time

The maximum Pell Grant amount, which is legislated by Congress, has fluctuated over time. The $5,820 maximum Pell Grant in 2016-17 was 54% higher in inflation-adjusted dollars than it was 20 years earlier, but about the same as it was 40 years earlier, in 1976-77.

Figure 16: Maximum and Average Pell Grants in 2016 Dollars, 1976-77 to 2016-17

Figure 16 represents Maximum and Average Pell Grants in 2016 Dollars, 1976-77 to 2016-17. For a corresponding Section 508-compliant data table, download the Excel spreadsheet.

Notes & Sources 

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report, 1976-77 through 2015-16; 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 the 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 2016-17, when the maximum Pell Grant was $5,820, the average grant was $3,740.