The federal student financial aid system, originally designed to increase access to higher education, must undergo a transformation to help more students earn a higher education degree or certificate and meet the increased demands of the twenty-first-century economy.
A new Alliance for Excellent Education report, Repairing a Broken System: Fixing Federal Student Aid, outlines a comprehensive approach for revamping the student aid system into one that better supports students and institutions of higher education (IHEs) and focuses on access and completion. (To watch the video that accompanies the report, click on the image below).
“Every day, the American economy ups the ante; today, students need some form of postsecondary education to compete for good jobs,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “For the good of the students—and the future of the American economy—the nation must go ‘all-in’ to repair the federal student financial aid system to ensure that students not only enter higher education butemerge with a postsecondary credential.”
The report proposes several policy and administrative changes to the existing federal student aid programs. These recommendations include (1) creating institutional supports and accountability; (2) simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the entire student aid system; (3) focusing student aid on the highest-need students; and (4) providing support for middle-class families.
Among the Alliance’s specific proposals is an emphasis on focusing federal student aid on students with the highest financial need and reducing the number of questions on the FAFSA required to determine need for federal student aid. Additionally, the report proposes creating a public reference chart that allows students and families to determine their Pell Grant award amount using adjusted gross income, family size, and dependency status. To be eligible for federal student aid, a student would need to enroll at least half time in an IHE.
Repairing a Broken System also calls on increased accountability for IHEs. To enable students and parents to make informed choices about where to attend school, the Alliance recommends that IHEs participating in federal student aid programs publicly report graduation rates for student aid recipients versus the school population at large. IHEs should also be required to inquire and report the reasons students drop below half-time status or withdraw, as well as maintain comparable graduation rates based on institution type.
Middle-class families would also be supported under the Alliance’s recommended federal student aid reforms. By combining the two current higher education tax credits with an added allowance for a portion of the cost of attendance at an IHE, the financial burden placed on families supporting degree-seekers would be lessened.
“The time for a federal student aid system arranged solely around access has passed; the time for a system that delivers a return on investment in the form of college completion is now,” Wise said. “The Alliance urges policymakers to act swiftly in implementing necessary federal student aid reforms.”
Read the full report at https://all4ed.org/files/RepairingBrokenSystem.pdf.