Pell Grant Reform Simulator

Last updated December 19, 2020

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act gives Congress the opportunity to modernize the Pell grant program, which makes college more affordable for low-income students.

With this tool, users can simulate the effects of modifications to the Pell program to see how program costs and grant amounts would change and which students would be affected. Users can change the program’s generosity within the current formula or experiment with a simplified system.

Simplified Formula

Change Maximum Pell

CHOOSE YOUR APPROACH

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Change Maximum Pell

Pell grants are currently calculated by subtracting an estimate of what families can pay, known as the “expected family contribution,” from the maximum grant amount, which is $6,095 for the 2018–19 school year. The formula also adjusts for cost of attendance and number of credits students take. Use the slider below to change the maximum Pell grant amount within the current formula.

Baseline value

Maximum Pell grant

Change the maximum Pell grant amount

Annual program cost

Program cost over 10 years

Change Maximum Pell

Pell grants are currently calculated by subtracting an estimate of what families can pay, known as the “expected family contribution,” from the maximum grant amount, which is $6,095 for the 2018–19 school year. The formula also adjusts for cost of attendance and number of credits students take. Use the slider below to change the maximum Pell grant amount within the current formula.

Baseline value

Maximum Pell grant

Change the maximum Pell grant amount

Annual program cost

Program cost over 10 years

Simplified Formula

Some experts and policymakers have proposed moving to a simplified calculation of Pell grants to reduce the burden of applying for aid and to make aid amounts more transparent and predictable. Here, we model a “two-factor” formula, where Pell grants are calculated based on income relative to the federal poverty level (which accounts for family size). To make this formula more generous or less generous, users can adjust the maximum grant size, the income level at which students begin receiving less than the maximum amount, and the level at which students are no longer eligible.

Baseline value

Maximum Pell grant

Change the maximum Pell grant amount

Phaseout begins

Choose the income level (as a share of the federal poverty level) at which Pell grants start phasing out

Phaseout ends

Choose the income level (as a share of the federal poverty level) at which students are no longer eligible for Pell grants

Annual program cost

Program cost over 10 years