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Expand chart
Adapted from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Chart: Axios Visuals

Pell Grants are intended to give low-income students a shot at a college education, but the funds that students receive only cover a fraction of rising present-day college tuitions and fees.

The big picture: The federal subsidies are administered by the Department of Education, originally created by the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1975, the largest Pell Grant award offset 79% of the average cost of attendance to a four-year public university. That coverage shrank to 29% of tuition in 2017, data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows.

  • The average cost for an in-state student at a four-year public school, plus room and board was $21,370 annually as of 2018, according to an analysis from the nonprofit College Board.
  • The maximum Pell Grant award for students was raised from $6,095 in the 2018-2019 school year to $6,195 for 2019-2020.
  • Typical students who receive the award are from the lowest income bracket and only eligible if they submit their family income information via Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This became available for the 2020-2021 school year in October.

The bottom line: The Pell Grant program is the largest source of federal aid, totaling $28.7 billion in fiscal year 2018 to help 7.1 million students.

  • Democrats and Republicans, including those running for president in 2020, have long agreed that more students should have access to the program and receive larger grant sums. The debate lies, however, in who to expand grants to, and how to appropriate them.

Go deeper: Congress considers granting more access to education in prison

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."