banner that reads Celebrating 50 years, Pell Grant, 1972-2022

The federal Pell Grant celebrates its golden anniversary this year. For students pursuing higher education, the grants are worth their weight in gold.   

The Pell Grant is the largest grant program offered by the U.S. Department of Education to undergraduate students. Awarded to students with the most financial need, the grants typically do not have to be repaid. 

selfie of Deyaa Ihmud
Deyaa Ihmud

Illinois State University’s Director of Financial Aid Bridget Curl said the Pell program is critical to keeping students in school and on the path to graduation. “Without this program, many families would have to choose between taking on significant loan debt or not attending a higher education institution,” she said.   

Last year alone, more than 5,500 Illinois State students received over $26 million in Pell Grants. 

“Without the Pell Grant, I would have not been able to pay for college,” said Deyaa Ihmud, a senior criminal justice major from Chicago who plans on becoming a police officer. “This grant has helped me keep going with my college education. I’ll be the first one in my family to walk across a university graduation stage, despite being the youngest of the family.” 

image of Jana Albrecht
Jana Albrecht

The grants help reduce the amount of debt students incur. “Our goal is to keep student debt low, and Pell Grants are an important part of that,” said Illinois State University’s Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Jana Albrecht. She noted the Pell program also assists the University in determining additional funds, with the University committing more than $12 million for students who are eligible for Pell. “This institutional grant gives our neediest students an additional $4,740 that can be used to pay for tuition and fees,” she said.   

Pell Grants provide a significant part of the $80 million Illinois State students received last year in federal and state grants and scholarships. The University provides students an additional $65 million in scholarships, grants, and tuition waivers to students. “Students want to be here, and we want to make that happen for them,” said Albrecht.  

 Follow the celebration of Pell Grants with #PellTurns50