Student Loans
How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Average Pell Grant Award Up 13% Over 10 Years (and Other Statistics)

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

With student loan forgiveness on the horizon, Pell Grants have been making headlines.

Federal student loan borrowers who received a Pell Grant in college are eligible for up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness, while those who didn’t are eligible for up to $10,000.

To learn more about how Pell Grants have changed over time, LendingTree researchers looked at how much recipients received, on average, in the past 10 years. Researchers also analyzed data on the percentage of students who received aid through the federal program.

Keep reading for Pell Grant statistics and more.

Key findings

  • The average Pell Grant award rose 13.0% over 10 years. The average award was $4,491 in 2019-20 — the latest available — versus $3,975 in 2009-10. 33.6% of students received a Pell Grant in 2019-20, down from 34.9% in 2009-10.
  • Idaho students received the highest average Pell Grant awards. The average award in the state was $5,349 in 2019-20, making Idaho one of only two states that crossed the $5,000 threshold. Next were North Carolina ($5,016) and Georgia ($4,979). For context, the maximum award allowed in 2019-20 was $6,195.
  • New Hampshire students received the lowest average Pell Grant awards. The average award in the state was $3,232 in 2019-20 — $2,117 less than the average in Idaho. New Hampshire, one of only two states under the $4,000 threshold, was below Minnesota ($3,944) and Wisconsin ($4,055).
  • Despite receiving the lowest average Pell Grant awards, New Hampshire saw the biggest 10-year jump in the rate of students receiving these grants. 39.7% of New Hampshire students received a Pell Grant in 2019-20, up 13.4 percentage points from 26.3% in 2009-10. The next biggest jumps were in Connecticut (7.9 percentage points) and Louisiana and Alaska (both 6.5 percentage points).
  • Iowa and Idaho saw double-digit 10-year percentage point decreases in the rate of students receiving Pell Grants. More than 40% of students in both states received Pell Grants in 2009-10, but both dropped below 30% in 2019-20. Mississippi saw the next biggest decrease (9.6 percentage points).

What are Pell Grants?

Pell Grants are need-based aid provided to students that typically don’t have to be repaid. The amount recipients receive can change annually.

“Pell Grants are great because, unlike with most other grants and scholarships, you can get them just by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which many students do anyway,” says Michael Kitchen, LendingTree student loan expert.

It’s also the largest federal grant program available to undergraduate students.

Average Pell Grant award rose 13% in past decade

The average Pell Grant award rose 13.0% over the 10 years from 2009-10 to 2019-20. The average award was $4,491 in 2019-20 — the latest available — compared with $3,975 in 2009-10.

Average Pell Grant award amounts

YearAverage Pell Grant award
2019-20$4,491
2018-19$4,416
2017-18$4,271
2016-17$4,046
2015-16$4,026
2014-15$3,973
2013-14$3,946
2012-13$3,884
2011-12$3,861
2010-11$4,057
2009-10$3,975

Source: LendingTree analysis of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data.

The average award increased in every year but one during the 10 years examined. While the increase is a win in some aspects for students, it’s not nearly enough to cover rising college costs, according to Kitchen.

“The grant award’s 10-year gain of 13% is dwarfed by a 31% rise in public college tuition, not to mention a 19% climb in consumer prices over the same period,” he says.

Meanwhile, the percentage of students who received Pell Grant awards decreased slightly over the 10 years examined.

More than a third (33.6%) of students received a Pell Grant in 2019-20, down from 34.9% in 2009-10. The height of Pell Grant recipients during these 10 years was in 2011-12, when 40.6% of students received a Pell Grant. That’s the same year in which the average award dropped. Since 2012-13, the percentage of students who received Pell Grants has fallen each year.

Percentage of students who received Pell Grants

YearPercentage of students
2019-2033.6%
2018-1934.0%
2017-1834.8%
2016-1734.9%
2015-1636.2%
2014-1538.5%
2013-1439.3%
2012-1339.8%
2011-1240.6%
2010-1139.4%
2009-1034.9%

Source: LendingTree analysis of NCES data.

Kitchen says this decrease suggests the program hasn’t been a big political priority. In 2022, however, President Joe Biden’s administration attempted to boost Pell Grant benefits.

In his 2023 fiscal year budget, Biden proposed raising the maximum Pell Grant amount by $2,175 per recipient for the 2023-24 school year. This would bring the total available amount to students to $8,670 based on the 2021-22 maximum award of $6,495.

In October 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Pell Grants would be available to incarcerated students in prison education programs.

History behind Pell Grants

You can’t discuss Pell Grant statistics without examining the historical data. During 1976-77, the average Pell Grant award stood at $759, with the maximum amount at $1,400. At that time, tuition cost an average of $1,218 yearly at four-year public schools.

From 1976-77 to 2019-20, the average cost of tuition skyrocketed by 668%, but Pell Grants didn’t keep pace, increasing by 492%.

During the 2019-20 school year, Pell Grant awards averaged $4,491, while four-year public colleges had an average tuition of $9,349 annually. (That amount gets higher among four-year private schools at a whopping $32,764.)

“Because Pell Grants are reserved for students with financial need, they’re an important tool in efforts to undo the unfair disparity between rich and poor when it comes to higher education,” Kitchen says. “On the downside, Pell Grants have maximum awards well below the average cost for a year at most colleges, so it’s never going to give you a full ride for tuition.”

Americans owed a cumulative $1.59 trillion in student loan debt as of the second quarter of 2022, with the class of 2020 taking out an average of $28,400 in federal and private debt. Borrowers can refinance their student loans, but the looming amounts make it challenging for some to repay.

Idaho students got largest average Pell Grants, while New Hampshire students got lowest

In 2019-20, Idaho students received the largest average Pell Grant awards at $5,349.

Along with North Carolina, Idaho was just one of two states to surpass the $5,000 mark. (As a reminder, the maximum award granted in 2019-20 was $6,195.)

Other states with the highest average Pell Grant awards were:

  • North Carolina ($5,016)
  • Georgia ($4,979)
  • Mississippi ($4,975)
  • Alabama ($4,788)
  • New York ($4,765)

On the flip side, New Hampshire students got the lowest average Pell Grant awards. Students there receive an average of $3,232 in 2019-20 — $2,117 less than the average in Idaho.

New Hampshire was one of only two states where the average award was under the $4,000 threshold. The states with the next lowest amounts were:

  • Minnesota ($3,944)
  • Wisconsin ($4,055)
  • Indiana ($4,065)
  • Delaware ($4,090)
  • Maryland ($4,101)

While there isn’t a clear-cut reason for the discrepancy between Idaho and New Hampshire, U.S. Census Bureau data sheds some light, especially since Pell Grants are need-based.

The median household income in Idaho was $58,915 in 2020, below the U.S. average of $64,994. The state’s poverty rate of 11.0% also hovers near the U.S. average of 11.6%. New Hampshire, on the other hand, has a higher median household income of $77,923 and a lower poverty rate of 7.2%.

Full rankings

Average Pell Grant award in 2019-20

RankStateAverage amount
1Idaho$5,349
2North Carolina$5,016
3Georgia$4,979
4Mississippi$4,975
5Alabama$4,788
6New York$4,765
7Florida$4,722
8Utah$4,718
9Maine$4,699
10South Carolina$4,694
11Louisiana$4,678
12Arkansas$4,652
13New Mexico$4,637
14Texas$4,618
15District of Columbia$4,593
16Michigan$4,517
17New Jersey$4,513
18Colorado$4,512
19Ohio$4,468
20Illinois$4,440
21Montana$4,439
22Oklahoma$4,410
23Pennsylvania$4,409
24Washington$4,383
25Iowa$4,375
26Kansas$4,373
27Hawaii$4,364
28California$4,363
29Tennessee$4,359
30West Virginia$4,337
31Rhode Island$4,310
32Massachusetts$4,302
33Missouri$4,296
34Arizona$4,291
35Vermont$4,241
36Wyoming$4,214
37South Dakota$4,212
38Virginia$4,197
39Nevada$4,184
40Oregon$4,176
41Alaska$4,173
42Connecticut$4,172
43Kentucky$4,158
44North Dakota$4,154
45Nebraska$4,126
46Maryland$4,101
47Delaware$4,090
48Indiana$4,065
49Wisconsin$4,055
50Minnesota$3,944
51New Hampshire$3,232

Source: LendingTree analysis of NCES data.

How Pell Grants have changed at state level in past decade

Over the decade from 2009-10 to 2019-20, Washington, D.C., borrowers experienced the largest percentage increase (51.1%) in average Pell Grant amounts. Students there went from receiving an average of $3,040 in 2009-10 to $4,593 in 2019-20.

Idaho (33.2%), North Carolina (25.2%) and Vermont (24.5%) were ranked behind D.C., though these states didn’t see nearly as big of a hike.

On the flip side, New Hampshire ranked lowest on the list with a 15.2% dip in average Pell Grant amounts during this period, from $3,811 in 2009-10 to $3,232 in 2019-20. Kentucky, the only other state to see a decline, dropped 5.4%, while Indiana saw a mere 1.5% increase.

Full rankings

10-year change in average Pell Grant award

RankState2009-20102019-2020Percentage change
1District of Columbia$3,040$4,59351.1%
2Idaho$4,015$5,34933.2%
3North Carolina$4,007$5,01625.2%
4Vermont$3,406$4,24124.5%
5Maine$3,831$4,69922.7%
6South Carolina$3,847$4,69422.0%
7Utah$3,878$4,71821.7%
8Illinois$3,696$4,44020.1%
9Pennsylvania$3,719$4,40918.6%
10New York$4,023$4,76518.4%
11Kansas$3,709$4,37317.9%
12Hawaii$3,704$4,36417.8%
13Colorado$3,855$4,51217.0%
14Georgia$4,284$4,97916.2%
15New Jersey$3,897$4,51315.8%
15Iowa$3,779$4,37515.8%
17Louisiana$4,069$4,67815.0%
18Texas$4,038$4,61814.4%
19Alaska$3,663$4,17313.9%
20Nebraska$3,629$4,12613.7%
21Massachusetts$3,788$4,30213.6%
22Florida$4,162$4,72213.5%
23Oklahoma$3,914$4,41012.7%
23Mississippi$4,416$4,97512.7%
25Ohio$3,969$4,46812.6%
26Arkansas$4,138$4,65212.4%
27Wisconsin$3,616$4,05512.1%
28Maryland$3,665$4,10111.9%
29Delaware$3,668$4,09011.5%
30Alabama$4,298$4,78811.4%
31Minnesota$3,548$3,94411.2%
32California$3,928$4,36311.1%
33Washington$3,960$4,38310.7%
34New Mexico$4,192$4,63710.6%
35South Dakota$3,811$4,21210.5%
35Tennessee$3,946$4,35910.5%
37West Virginia$3,927$4,33710.4%
38Rhode Island$3,927$4,3109.8%
39Connecticut$3,811$4,1729.5%
40Nevada$3,837$4,1849.0%
41Wyoming$3,895$4,2148.2%
41Missouri$3,971$4,2968.2%
43North Dakota$3,847$4,1548.0%
44Virginia$3,888$4,1977.9%
45Michigan$4,191$4,5177.8%
46Oregon$3,945$4,1765.9%
47Arizona$4,137$4,2913.7%
48Montana$4,305$4,4393.1%
49Indiana$4,005$4,0651.5%
50Kentucky$4,397$4,158-5.4%
51New Hampshire$3,811$3,232-15.2%

Source: LendingTree analysis of NCES data.

New Hampshire saw largest increase in Pell Grant recipients

When LendingTree researchers examined the percentage of students who received Pell Grants instead of how much they got, the states flipped.

New Hampshire students may have received the lowest Pell Grant amounts in 2019-20, but the state saw the largest jump in the rate of students who received these grants between 2009-10 and 2019-20.

The data shows 39.7% of New Hampshire students — 55,506, to be exact — received a Pell Grant in 2019-20. This was a 13.4 percentage point increase from 26.3% in 2009-10. The next biggest jumps were in:

  • Connecticut: 30.0% (2009-10) to 37.9% (2019-20)
  • Louisiana: 35.9% (2009-10) to 42.4% (2019-20)
  • Alaska: 16.7% (2009-10) to 23.2% (2019-20)

On the reverse side, Iowa and Idaho experienced double-digit 10-year drops in the rate of students who received Pell Grants.

In 2009-10, more than 40% of students in both states received Pell Grants, but that rate lowered to below 30% by 2019-20. Broken down by the number of students, 49,237 Iowans and 34,032 Idaho students received Pell Grants in 2019-20.

The following states experienced the next largest drops in the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants:

  • Mississippi: 54.7% (2009-10) to 45.1% (2019-20)
  • Ohio: 39.0% (2009-10) to 29.6% (2019-20)
  • Maine: 37.2% (2009-10) to 30.0% (2019-20)

Full rankings

10-year change in rate of students who received Pell Grants

RankState2009-20102019-2020Percentage point change
1New Hampshire26.3%39.7%13.4
2Connecticut30.0%37.9%7.9
3Louisiana35.9%42.4%6.5
3Alaska16.7%23.2%6.5
5Nevada27.1%32.8%5.7
6New Jersey33.6%38.5%4.9
7California28.3%32.9%4.6
8West Virginia29.2%32.3%3.1
9District of Columbia26.3%28.3%2.0
10Hawaii25.0%26.6%1.6
11New York36.4%37.8%1.4
12Virginia29.6%30.9%1.3
13Rhode Island29.3%30.3%1.0
14Delaware27.9%28.8%0.9
15Maryland29.8%30.2%0.4
16Massachusetts28.0%28.3%0.3
17Florida41.1%41.0%-0.1
18Washington25.7%25.5%-0.2
19Illinois32.9%32.6%-0.3
20Utah30.5%30.0%-0.5
21Wyoming21.9%21.0%-0.9
22New Mexico36.7%35.7%-1.0
23Kansas28.9%27.4%-1.5
24North Carolina38.2%36.4%-1.8
25Nebraska28.9%27.0%-1.9
26Texas36.5%34.4%-2.1
27Pennsylvania33.5%31.1%-2.4
28Alabama38.6%35.8%-2.8
29Colorado32.8%29.7%-3.1
30Minnesota31.8%28.6%-3.2
31Wisconsin29.5%26.2%-3.3
32Oklahoma36.1%32.4%-3.7
33Kentucky39.6%35.6%-4.0
34Tennessee42.3%38.2%-4.1
35Indiana35.6%31.4%-4.2
36North Dakota26.8%22.3%-4.5
37Georgia45.6%40.7%-4.9
37Arkansas43.0%38.1%-4.9
39Oregon36.0%30.8%-5.2
40Missouri37.3%31.5%-5.8
40Arizona41.9%36.1%-5.8
42Vermont28.6%22.6%-6.0
42South Dakota33.0%27.0%-6.0
44Montana35.2%29.0%-6.2
45South Carolina42.8%36.3%-6.5
46Michigan38.6%31.9%-6.7
47Maine37.2%30.0%-7.2
48Ohio39.0%29.6%-9.4
49Mississippi54.7%45.1%-9.6
50Idaho40.5%29.3%-11.2
51Iowa42.5%25.7%-16.8

Source: LendingTree analysis of NCES data.

Tips for navigating Pell Grants

If you’re struggling to afford the cost of tuition, you may be eligible to receive a Pell Grant to help counter at least some of the steep costs that come with a postsecondary education.

“Your Pell Grant award is based on your level of need — you just need to be an undergraduate attending school at least part time,” Kitchen says. “Beyond those requirements, you should have no problem getting a Pell Grant, so long as you fill out the FAFSA on time.”

Here’s what you should know before being considered for a Pell Grant:

  • Look over your FAFSA: Since the federal government bases whether you get a Pell Grant on the info in your FAFSA, make sure to turn in your correct information by the deadline. The FAFSA opens on Oct. 1 and closes on June 30.
  • Pay attention to the criteria: While your grades won’t impact whether you receive a Pell Grant, other factors may. To be eligible, you’ll need to be an undergraduate and be enrolled at least part time in school. The higher your financial need, the larger your grant may be.
  • Avoid repaying your Pell Grant: In most cases, you won’t need to repay your Pell Grant. However, there are some instances where you may have to repay the grant — including if you pull out of school early, your enrollment status changes or you use other grants or scholarships to cover your costs.

If you’re a student who didn’t qualify for a Pell Grant and instead had to take out student loans, you may be able to pay off your loans faster by looking into refinancing or student loan consolidation.

Methodology

LendingTree researchers analyzed National Center for Education Statistics data from the 2019-20 academic year — the latest available — to find the states where recipients received the highest and lowest average Pell Grant awards at Title IV-participating institutions, as well as the rate of students who received these grants.

We also analyzed data from the 2009-10 academic year to make 10-year comparisons when relevant.

 

Recommended Reading