The Pell Grant has been called the foundation for a student's entire financial aid package, and rightfully so since all other higher education financial aid is dependent on the Pell Grant. You can still qualify for other grants and loans without a Pell Grant, but you have to apply for the Pell Grant to even have the option of qualifying for the other FA. But where did this come from? It certainly hasn't always been around. The Pell Grant is one of those things that seems to have been around as long as anyone can remember, but if they think about the 1950's, it's not there.
So where did this come from? It came from a man named (oddly enough) Claiborne Pell. He was a senator from Rhode Island. He served six terms from 1961-97 and was most known for his work with education. He was largely responsible for creating the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant in 1973. This grant was created specifically for prison inmates to get an education. Pell and others believed that prisoners who received an education were less likely to return to jail and would ultimately create a safer public. The funding for this grant was never a problem in that there was always more money available than what was paid out. The odd thing was that people on the outside of prison weren't usually turned down for the grant. The Basic Educational Opportunity Grant was dubbed Pell Grant and soon the official name of the grant changed to it.
Claiborne Pell died at the age of 90 in 2009, and without his support, there would be no Pell Grant serving the needs to students in higher education since 1973.