Total Pell Grant Expenditures and Number of Recipients over Time

Total Pell Grant expenditures increased from $6.1 billion (in 2017 dollars) in 1977-78 to $9.7 billion in 1997-98 and to $28.2 billion in 2017-18. Over the decade from 2007-08 to 2017-18, expenditures spiked from $17.2 billion in 2007-08 to $40.1 billion in 2010-11, before falling back to $28.2 billion in 2017-18.

Figure 20B: Total Pell Grant Expenditures and Number of Recipients, 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 percentage of Pell Grant recipients who are independent students, with eligibility determined by their own financial circumstances rather than those of their parents, increased from 39% in 1977-78 to 57% in 1997-98. This percentage declined from 58% in 2007-08 and 2012-13 to 51% in 2016-17.