Pell Grant receives largest increase in a decade

A federal spending bill signed by the Biden administration on Dec. 29, 2022, contains $24.6 billion for federal student aid programs, as well as a $500 boost to the maximum Pell Grant award, raising it from $6,895 to $7,395 for the 2023-24 award year, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators reports. The increase, which follows a $400 bump to the Pell Grant last March, is the largest in over a decade, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Related: Celebrating 50 years of Pell Grant aid >

More money for Pell Grant awards

As college costs rise, most two- and four-year public colleges and universities have become unaffordable to the average Pell Grant recipient. Six million students received Pell Grants in the 2020-21 award year, with the average student receiving $4,600, USA Today reports. However, that year, average tuition and fees were $9,400 at four-year public universities and $37,600 at private non-profit universities, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Although the increase in the maximum Pell Grant award won’t cover that gap, it will “help an awful lot of people who are trying to decide whether to start or to continue a post-secondary education,” Terry Hartle, a senior vice president of government relations and public affairs at the American Council on Education, tells USA Today. The Biden administration has said it hopes to increase the maximum Pell Grant to $13,000 by 2029.

In addition to the Pell Grant increase, the spending bill included several other investments intended to promote higher education access for low-income students:

  • $137 million for historically under-resourced institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and $50 million for a new program that supports infrastructure investments at HBCUS, MSIs, and tribal colleges
  • $54 million for TRIO, a federal outreach and student services program that guides low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities through the academic pipeline beginning in middle school through undergraduate and post-baccalaureate programs
  • $45 million for the Postsecondary Student Success Program, a grant program that supports students who have started but not yet completed a college credential by providing tutoring and other wraparound services
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