According to the College Board, in 2016-17, more than 7 million American college students received the Pell Grant, the most common and largest form of higher education grant for those with financial need.
And although it is awarded to students, Pell Grants have long been an indirect subsidy for colleges and universities. Pell Grant awards put billions of dollars a year into institutions as part of an implied, but very clear, contract – colleges get millions of tuition-paying students in exchange for helping less wealthy students scale the economic ladder that college can be. For generations, the agreement has worked well. The Pell and other forms of education aid such as subsidized loans have launched millions of Americans into the middle class and beyond.