It began as a summer school program in 1965 with a budget of $96 million ($663 million adjusted for inflation). This early childhood education program for disadvantaged pre-kindergartners became a fully funded year-round program the following year. Perhaps the best-known Great Society program, Head Start's annual budget now tops $8 billion. The latest focus is on improving accountability and teacher quality. Head Start enrolls about a million children a year at a cost of about $7500 per child. Research shows there is a modest return on Head Start dollars in terms of future school performance. Head Start is the foundation behind a number of new initiatives pushing for greater investment in early childhood education for poor children. For more information about Head Start, read Early Lessons, an American RadioWorks documentary about the long-term effects of preschool.
Federal Stafford loans originated in the Higher Education Act of 1965. The government subsidizes these low-interest loans for low-income students. Stafford loans became available to all students after 1978. For more information about an array of federal loans and grants, visit the Department of Education's site.
The Federal Work-Study Program began in 1964 to help low-income students pay for higher education through campus jobs. It now includes community service so that students may work for local non-profit agencies to help pay tuition. Originally housed in the Department of Labor, the Federal Work-Study Program now belongs to the Education Department and helps more than 650,000 students with annual grants that average about $1500. Read more about federal work study programs.
The Pell Grant is the federal government's mainstay financial support for helping low-income students pay for college. The maximum grant for 2011 is $5,550 and the average grant is about $2,200. The program was authorized in 1972 as the Basic Education Opportunity Grant. It was renamed for its legislative sponsor, the late Senator Claiborne Pell, in 1980. Read more about an array of federal loans and grants.