Since 1985, the combined cost of college tuition and fees has gone up by about 559 percent, leading to outstanding student loan debt that, by some estimates, has cleared $1 trillion. As colleges have kept on increasing their costs, financial aid has failed to keep up.
Case in point, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit organization aiming to expand higher education accessibility, Pell Grants next year will cover the smallest percentage of overall college costs since the creation of the program:
The program has not been able to keep up with ever-escalating college prices: Since 2008, annual spending on the Pell Grant program has more than doubled, to nearly $40 billion, and thanks to the Obama administration and Congress, the maximum grant has jumped from $4,731 to $5,550 (and is scheduled to rise again to $5,635 in fiscal year 2013). Despite these increases, the maximum Pell Grant is expected to cover less than one-third of the average cost of attendance at public four-year colleges next year – a level that would be, according to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), “the lowest in history.”
Just 30 years ago, Pell Grants covered nearly 70 percent of the cost of college:
Over those 30 years, the U.S. has made exactly zero progress in terms of increasing its college graduation rate. Instead of doing anything to address this, House Republicans approved a budget that eliminates Pell Grants for up to one million students.