After three years of major increases in federal Pell grants for needy college students, President Obama aims to boost the aid further with $40 billion in funding over the next decade. But even that influx might not ensure that the grants will recover and sustain the purchasing power they once held.
Experts agree on the reason: soaring college costs.
In the late 1970s, the maximum Pell award covered more than two-thirds of tuition and fees for a public four-year university. In the 1980s, it covered roughly half of such expenses. In the last school year, it covered about a third.
“There is an increasing gap that students have to cover on their own,” said Sandy Baum, a senior policy analyst for the College Board, in New York. “It’s obviously a problem for students. They’re working more; they’re borrowing more.”