AAC&U News, November 2016
Facts & Figures

Pell Grants Increase as Incomes Fall

According to a September report issued by the US Department of Education, the number of Pell Grant recipients increased between the years 1999 and 2011. This trend seems to be largely attributable to the recession that struck around 2008; while the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants increased during the thirteen years that the report tracks, their incomes and their families’ incomes—the primary criteria for determining who is eligible to receive a Pell Grant—decreased.  

More Students Receiving Pell Grants

  • For the 2011–2012 school year, 35 percent of dependent students (students under age twenty-four who were unmarried, had no dependents, were not veterans or active-duty military members, were not orphans or wards of the court, were not homeless or at risk of being homeless, and who were not determined to be independent by a financial aid officer) received Pell Grants.
  • For the 1999–2000 school year, 19 percent of dependent students received Pell Grants, as did 22 percent of dependent students in both 2003–2004 and 2007–2008.
  • In 2011–2012, 48 percent of independent students received Pell Grants; in 1999–2000, 25 percent of independent students did, as did 32 percent in 2003–2004 and 33 percent in 2007–2008.

Incomes Decline as Pell Grants Increase

  • Adjusting for inflation, the median family income of dependent students who received Pell Grants was $26,100.
  • In 1999–2000, the median family income of dependent Pell Grant recipients was $29,500; in 2003–2004, it was $30,000, and in 2007–2008 it was $28,000.
  • The median income of independent Pell Grant recipients in 2011–2012, adjusted for inflation, was $12,700. In 1999–2000, this median income was $14,300; in 2003–2004, it was $15,800, and in 2007–2008, it was $14,100.

Did You Know?

In 2015, the Obama administration launched the Second Chance Pell Pilot program, which allowed incarcerated people to receive Pell Grants. Through the program, inmates who otherwise meet Title IV eligibility requirements and are eligible for release—especially within five years—can apply for Pell Grants. “America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.   

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AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.

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