Pell Grant Mission Creep
Federal Policy

Pell Grant Mission Creep

How a Federal Program for Low-Income Families Expanded to the Middle Class

Posted: July 8, 2019
Author(s): Jason D. Delisle and Cody Christensen
Organization(s): American Enterprise Institute

This report calls attention to a trend in the Pell Grant program that has largely gone unnoticed by policymakers. Increases in the maximum Pell Grant between the 1995–96 and 2018–19 academic years have allowed more middle-income families to qualify for the program. Today, students from families earning between $50,000 and $60,000 can easily qualify for a grant, which is a stark change from earlier decades when families with this income level (in today’s dollars) were far less likely to be eligible.