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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

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 1 hour ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.