The government gives Pell Grants to over 6 million students yearly. Learn how many people get Pell Grants by state, income, school type, and more.
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Over 211.8 million people have received Pell Grants since 1980., 
Around 30-40% of undergraduates receive some amount of Pell Grant funding every year.Note Reference 
The Department of Education gave out about $25.4 billion in Pell Grants to 6.1 million students in the 2021-2022 school year.Note Reference 
In 2020-2021, 97% of Pell Grant recipients came from families earning less than $70,000 a year.
Close to half (47%) made less than $20,000 a year.Note Reference 
The majority of full-time Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latino/a, and Pacific Islander students (59-72%) received Pell Grants in 2015-2016.
The Second Chance Pell Experiment offers some currently incarcerated students Pell Grants at 200 participating schools.
In August 2022, President Biden announced a plan to forgive $10,000 of student loan debt for some borrowers and $20,000 of student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients.
That’s good news for you if you received a Pell Grant. It also benefits millions of students who receive billions of dollars yearly from the program.
The government looks at a student’s income or their family’s to determine who gets a Pell Grant and how much they receive. This report explores Pell Grants by the numbers and answers how many people receive these grants by income, state, and other factors.
How Many People Receive Pell Grants?
The number of Pell Grant recipients has generally declined over the past decade.Note Reference 
- The U.S. Department of Education (ED) reported that about 6.1 million students received Pell Grants in the 2021-2022 school year.Note Reference 
- The highest number of Pell Grants was awarded in 2011-2012. Over 9.4 million students (45%) received Pell Grants.Note Reference 
- About 30-40% of undergraduates receive some Pell Grant funding in a given year.Note Reference 
- In 2020-2021, 33% of undergraduates received some Pell Grant funding.
Pell Grant Recipients by Income
According to the ED, in 2020-2021:Note Reference 
- 97% of Pell Grant recipients came from families earning less than $70,000 a year.
- More than three-quarters (77%) of Pell Grant recipients came from families earning less than $40,000 a year.
- About half (47%) made less than $20,000 a year.
Pell Grant Recipients by Race
In 2015-2016 — the latest year this data is available from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES):Note Reference 
- The majority of full-time Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Latino/a, and Pacific Islander students (59-72%) received some amount of Pell Grant funding.
- About half (48%) of full-time students of two or more races received a Pell Grant.
- Just over one third of Asian students (36%) and white students (34%) received a Pell Grant.
Note that Asian and white households tend to hold more wealth than Black and Latino/a households, according to Census Bureau Data. Additionally, researchers at the Federal Reserve reported in 2021 that the average Black or Latino/a household earns around half as much as the average white household and has about 15-20% as much net wealth.
|Race/Ethnicity||Full-Time Students||Part-Time Students|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||62%||46%|
|Hispanic or Latina/o||60%||38%|
|Two or more races||48%||38%|
Pell Grant Recipients by School Type
- In 2020-2021, 69% of Pell Grant recipients attended public colleges and universities.
- For reference, about 73% of all students attended public colleges.Note Reference 
Pell Grant Recipients and Dependency Status
Pell Grants go to nearly 38,000 independent students — that is, students who do not rely on their families for any financial support.
- Roughly 42% of Pell Grant recipients are independent, meaning they depend only on themselves financially.
- Almost 12% are independent and have a dependent — someone, usually a child, who depends on them financially.
- About 58% are dependent on someone else financially. The government uses their family’s income to determine how much grant money they receive.
Pell Grant Recipients and Incarceration Status
Federal financial aid is typically unavailable for incarcerated students. However, the Second Chance Pell Experiment allows some incarcerated students to access Pell Grants to pay for school.
- The program began in 2015 during the Obama administration.Note Reference 
- According to the ED, it has helped incarcerated students earn over 7,000 credentials.Note Reference 
- In July 2022, the program expanded to include 73 new colleges and universities, for a total of 200 participating schools.
Pell Grant Recipients by State
States with the most Pell Grant recipients tend to be the states with the highest populations. So, we looked at the rate of Pell Grant recipients by population, also called the
per capita rate.
- Mississippi (2.48% of the population received Pell Grants in 2020)
- Georgia (2.42%)
- Louisiana (2.39%)
States with the fewest Pell Grant recipients per capita are:Note Reference , Note Reference 
- New Hampshire (1.05% per capita)
- North Dakota (1.15%)
- Vermont (1.16%)
The government offered a far smaller number of Pell Grants to some international students studying in the U.S., including:Note Reference 
- 652 Pell Grant recipients from Canada
- 739 recipients from Mexico (about 0.01% of all Pell Grant recipients)