State Financial Aid Redesign
While a college education is more important than ever, students face unprecedented challenges in financing the cost. Policy makers across the country are faced with designing financial aid programs that foster postsecondary access and completion.
About the Project
Education Commission of the States (ECS), with support from Strada Education Network, is addressing this critical issue during an intensive two-year project focused on bringing state financial aid policies in alignment with college completion goals. Through advancing principles to guide state aid policymaking, providing a 50-state policy database, and supporting states through targeted technical assistance, ECS is examining promising practices in state financial aid and assisting states in advancing policy.
50-State Policy Scan
The ECS 50-state policy database provides a comprehensive look at the 100 largest state-funded financial aid programs across the country. This resource is intended to inform discussions surrounding current program design, innovative models already in practice in the states, and assist states in identifying peer programs.
The 50-state data also reveals opportunities for states to rethink aid programs in light of contemporary students. For example, among the 100 largest state-funded programs:
- Twenty-nine programs will only fund students who enroll full-time.
- Forty-three define the duration of the award by a set number of terms or years, as opposed to anchoring eligibility to the length of time needed to complete a program at varying enrollment intensities.
- Thirty-three programs link aid eligibility to college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, or a high school grade point average – traditional college readiness measures that are of little relevance for adults returning to higher education after time in the workforce.
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State Financial Aid Redesign: Principles in Action
Emerging from an iterative process with experts, four major principles guide our approach to state financial aid redesign:
Aid programs designed around students and their needs set students up for successful outcomes.
Goal Driven, Data Informed
Aid programs should have a clearly defined and easily understood intent aligned with measureable state education and workforce goals.
Timely and Flexible
Aid programs should provide financial support to students when it can have the greatest impact on enrollment and persistence decisions.
Aid programs need to respond to the diverse enrollment options available to students.
Read more about these principles in the ECS brief, Redesigning State Financial Aid: Principles to guide state aid policymaking.
You can also watch a recorded webcast of the State Financial Aid Redesign Project Launch, which took place at the National Press Club on April 29, 2015 and includes a panel discussion with experts on state financial aid.
State Technical Assistance
Since 2015, Education Commission of the States’ policy team supported 10 states in redesigning key aspects of their state financial aid programs. These projects ranged from data and policy analysis to on-the-ground counsel to drafting recommendations. Make sure to read this report to discover lessons learned from each of these efforts. In 2017, we will engage a third cohort of states in targeted technical assistance projects.
ECS / Strada Education Network
Get Engaged: Your Voice
Learn about our partnership
Strada Education Network, formerly USA Funds, is a new kind of nonprofit organization that takes a fresh approach to improving the college-to-career connection. Through a unique combination of strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and innovative solutions, Strada Education Network advances Completion With a Purpose, building a more purposeful path for America’s students to rewarding careers and fulfilling lives. Learn more at www.stradaeducation.org and follow Strada Education on Twitter @StradaEducation.
Education Commission of the States was created by states, for states, in 1965. Education Commission of the States tracks state policy trends, translates academic research, provides unbiased advice and creates opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another.
Building on the collaborative approach taken in Redesigning State Financial Aid: Principles to guide state aid policymaking, we continue to seek engagement from a broad group of stakeholders to inform this work. Taxpayers, students, and parents all stand to benefit from the development of an educated workforce- so speak up! What’s working- or not working- when it comes to the state role in providing student financial support?
State Aid Matters: Expert Voices
Learn about the motivations for our redesign work and the principles guiding our efforts.
Leaders reflect on the necessity of redesigning state aid policy.