A Brief Pell Grant History

Written by Michael Bennet

The Higher Education Act of 1965 was created in order to provide financial assistance to those who were attending college during this time period, and to those who were going to be getting a postsecondary education in the future.

While the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants were the focus of this bill back during its inception, it wasn’t until 1972 when the Higher Education Act was amended to make way for the Pell Grant.

Brief History of the Pell Grant

The Pell Grant was technically created in 1972 as an amendment of the Higher Education Act, and was initially not referred to as the Pell Grant. It was first known as the Basic Education Opportunity Grant, and was renamed in 1980 after the Senator Claiborne Pell.

It was first created to provide aid to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford college, and over the years it has gone through a number of different amendments.

These amendments have made a number of different changes to the Pell Grant program over the years, and have altered the award amounts, the eligibility requirements, and the available funding for the program to a significant degree.

While many of these changes were created, and have in-fact benefited students to some degree, critics argue that the Pell Grant has not kept up with inflation, and has strayed from its core mission over time.

SAFRA: The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, or SAFRA, was instituted in the Spring of 2010 and has had several effects on a student’s ability to get Pell Grant aid. This bill has increased the Pell Grant amount to 5,645 dollars for the 2010-2011 school year, and it has implemented a scheduled annual increase beginning in 2013-14 to combat inflation.

It has also slightly increased the maximum cutoff EFC that students must abide by in order to become eligible for the grant to 5,081, an increase from 4,617.

SAFRA has made the Pell Grant available to roughly 240,000 more students, and plans on injecting tens of billions of additional dollars into the Pell Grant program over the next decade. Critics have been making the argument that SAFRA still does not make the grant available to enough students, or that it does not provide enough funding to students who are able to become eligible for the award.

Pell Grant State and Future

The Pell Grant program as it stands now provides billions of dollars to students who demonstrate a high financial need for aid to attend college, and while many argue that it should provide more money to students who really need it, the grant is one of the most prevalent, and most effective financial aid instruments that is currently in existence.

While the maximum Pell Grant amount for 2013-2014 is set at 5,645 dollars, the average amount students were able to get was reduced via a vote in Congress during the Spring of 2011. This was a result of a Pell Grant shortfall that totaled over five billion dollars.

This just goes to show you that nothing is guaranteed with this federal education program, and that one year could yield a dramatic increase in funding (SAFRA in 2010), while the next year could lead to a significant decrease in funding (Congressional vote in Spring 2011).

The bottom line is that you must pay attention to what is going on with the federal Pell Grant if you want to maintain a firm grasp on how you are going to pay for school, and for this reason it is essential that you check back with this site on a regular basis.