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Federal student aid should focus on completion, not just access

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March 07, 2013 09:14 pm


Today in the Huffington Post I published an opinion piece on the necessity of lawmakers to reveiw the current federal student aid system make changes that encourage college completion, not just access. I based my recommendations on two reports that my organization, the Alliance for Excellent Education, released last month: A System in Need of Repair: An Examination of Federal Student Aid for Postsecondary Education and Repairing a Broken System: Fixing Federal Student Aid.

As we continue deeper on into the 21st-century, a high school education has become a necessity, and increasingly, so has a post-high school education. In order to ensure that students today are equipped with the skills and educational attainment they’ll need to achieve their American Dreams, it’s necessary they have access to a federal aid system that helps that pursue college and complete a degree.

Under the current federal financial aid system, far too many students are shut out of the process. The current patchwork of federal student aid programs is a significant barrier, rather than an assistive tool, for many students because the system to obtain financial aid is complex and difficult to navigate. Additionally, colleges are not required to provide any nonfinancial support, such as academic counseling, that helps ensure program completion. These barriers, combined with rising program costs–Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and other federal aid to college students last year alone reached $215 billion–and failure to support students, mean a change is needed.

Repairing a Broken System: Fixing Federal Student Aid, a new report released by my organization, the Alliance for Excellent Education, offers four solutions for making the federal student aid system more coherent and effective at graduating students: (1) instituting student support systems within colleges and other postsecondary institutions; (2) simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process; (3) focusing student aid on the highest-need students; and (4) condensing the tax incentives available to middle-class families.

It’s time for lawmakers to review the Alliance’s recommendations, and others, and come up with a plan to make financial aid make more sense. Students’ futures depend on it.

You can read my full comments on the Huffington Post – The American Dream: Creating Tomorrow’s Workers Starts with Fixing Student Aid Today.

Bob Wise is the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.


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