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Key Points

  • The federal government’s share of total student aid increased from 70% in 2008-09 to 74% in 2010-11 but fell to 62% in 2018-19.

  • Need-based federal aid programs, including Pell Grants and some smaller grant programs, subsidized student loans, Perkins loans, and FWS accounted for 91% of total federal aid in 1988-89. That share fell to 58% in 1998-99, after the introduction of unsubsidized student loans and education tax credits. By 2018-19, growth in unsubsidized loans and tax credits, combined with PLUS loans for parents and graduate students and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, outweighed increases in federal need-based aid to reduce the share of federal aid based on need to 33%.

  • Total grant aid rose by 56% (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to $135.6 billion from 2008-09 to 2018-19. Institutional grants grew most rapidly, increasing by 78% to $64.7 billion.

  • Total loans declined by 5% (in inflation-adjusted dollars) between 2008-09 and 2018-19, to $106.2 billion. Throughout the decade from 2008-09 through 2018-19, nonfederal loans made up 7% to 12% of total education borrowing.


Table 1: Total Student Aid and Nonfederal Loans in 2018 Dollars (in Millions), 1988-89 to 2018-19, Selected Years

NOTES: Table 1 excludes a variety of small federal grant and loan programs as well as some small programs for veterans and members of the military. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) funds reflect federal allocations and do not include the required matching funds from institutions. 2018-19 FSEOG, FWS, tax benefits, state grants, institutional grants, private and employer grants, and nonfederal loans are estimated from earlier data. Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCES: See Notes and Sources for a list of sources for data included in Table 1.

Also Important

  • In 2018-19, undergraduate students received 76% ($186.9 billion) of total student aid, including 96% of all federal grants and 58% of federal loans. They received 86% of total grant aid from all sources and 62% of all loans, including nonfederal loans. The remainder of the aid funded graduate students. (Table 1 online)