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Federal student financial aid: Success requires more than just access

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October 25, 2012 02:23 pm


In the coming weeks, you’ll notice more activity from the Alliance around the need to examine the way the federal government designs and delivers federal student financial aid. Why? Because the Alliance is deeply committed to ensuring success for all students, in high school and beyond.

We know that for many Americans, completing some form of postsecondary program or technical training is critical to achieving the American Dream. That’s why the Alliance works hard to transform high schools and make it possible for every child to graduate prepared for success in college. 

We also recognize that even for those high school graduates who are well-prepared for college, barriers still exist that could keep them from fully realizing their dream – the greatest of which is cost.

The good news is that the federal student aid system is designed to provide various forms of assistance to college-goers and their families.

The bad news is that the system is large and extremely complicated. It includes various grants, loans, campus-based programs, and tax benefits. The system has also grown to focus exclusively on student access, while doing little to ensure that students actually complete their programs. While we believe access is a necessary goal, it does not sufficiently serve individual students, their communities, or the country.

Focusing exclusively on access often results in once-hopeful college-goers leaving without a degree and being saddled with debt. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This is why the Alliance, along with several other organizations interested in student success, is participating in an endeavor to re-imagine aid design and delivery. For the past few months we have been closely examining the federal student aid system and looking for ways to improve it.

What we’ve learned has been deeply interesting, and we want to engage all of you in this fascinating dialogue. 

Next week, the Alliance will host a webinar with representatives from The Education Trust and the United States Student Association. Around that time, some of our preliminary thoughts on the federal student aid system will also be released. It’s essential that both the public and policymakers think about the way the system functions and to see how it can be improved. Join us for the October 29th webinar (you can register here), and stay tuned as we continue our work and explore how to help students even after we successfully get them to high school graduation.


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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.