Reflecting on the vital role this federal program has played for students at Duke over the years  

The Pell Grant, one of America’s premier means of providing financial aid to college students, hits a big milestone this week as the program turns 50 years old. On June 23rd, Duke joins the higher education community in marking Pell’s golden anniversary and day of advocacy. 

First created in 1972 by the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization, Pell Grants have provided aid to tens of millions of college students who are most in need of financial support. According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), the Pell Grant supplied nearly 7 million college students student aid in the 2019-2020 academic year. In the same academic year, the program also supported 14% of all Duke University undergraduate students. 

“Pell Grants play a vital role in helping all students have access to higher education,” explained Miranda McCall, the assistant vice provost and director of the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support at Duke. “Since the program began 50 years ago, it has helped millions of people in our country attend college. Duke provides robust additional financial support for Pell recipients to meet demonstrated financial need, and we stand with other colleges and universities in advocating for the doubling of the Pell Grant to ensure broader access to higher education nationwide.” 

Strengthening the Pell Grant remains a key priority for Duke’s federal advocacy agenda. Chris Simmons, Duke’s associate vice president for government relations, emphasized that Pell Grants give “recipients an additional boost as they make their way through the college years. It also offers a glimmer of hope and optimism, politically, as it enjoys strong bipartisan support year to year.” 

“While the support and program are celebrated,” said Simmons, “the anniversary is a good reminder that more must be done to support our most financially vulnerable students.” 

As the anniversary date of June 23, 2022, approaches, Duke has continued to reiterate its support for Pell Grants and advocates for doubling the maximum Pell Grant to the North Carolina Congressional delegation. We have also been supportive of the recent bipartisan, bicameral resolutions honoring the Pell Grant program.  

More activity and celebration of this anniversary will be found on Duke in DC’s Twitter feed and at #PellTurns50 on social media all week.