Federal Pell grants are financial awards provided to undergraduate students who demonstrate significant financial need. Congress authorized the Pell Grant Program in 1972 with the passage of the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant Program. Federal Pell grants have been awarded annually since the 1973–74 school year.
A new report from the U.S. Department of Education shows data by racial and ethnic group on Pell grant recipients and the historical trends of those students who have received Pell grants.
In the 2015-16 academic year, 39.1 percent of all undergraduate students received a Pell grant. The average award was $3,700. The average Pell grant recipient received a grant that paid 18.5 percent of the student’s total cost of higher education.
More than 57 percent of African American undergraduate students received a federal Pell grant in the 2015-16 academic year. For White students, 31.3 percent of all undergraduates received a federal Pell grant. African Americans were 22.7 percent of all Pell grant recipients. More than two-thirds of all African American Pell grant recipients also took out student loans with an average debt of $7,200.
At private four-year institutions, 62.1 percent of the African American students received a Pell grant in the 2015-16 academic year. The average award of $4,000 covered only 13 percent of the average total cost of higher education for these African American Pell grant recipients.
Four years earlier in the 2011-12 academic year, more than 61 percent of all African American undergraduate students received a federal Pell grant. That year, African Americans were 24.1 percent of all students who received Pell grants.
The full report, Trends in Pell Grant Receipt and the Characteristics of Pell Grant Recipients: Selected Years, 2003–04 to 2015–16, may be downloaded by clicking here.