In 1972, Congress passed and President Richard Nixon signed into law the 1972 amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965. A key aspect of the legislation was the creation of the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant program (BEOG), later renamed the Pell Grant program in 1980 after the late Senator Claiborne Pell. Senator Pell was the key champion for the creation of the BEOG program.
Since the passage of this legislation, tens of millions of undergraduate college students have received a total of over $280 billion in Pell Grants from the federal government. Pell Grants are awarded based only on the financial need of the student and/or her family, and they are designed to be the foundation grant for promoting college access. This school year alone, almost 10 million students will receive over $35 billion in Pell Grants.