Select Page

State Financial Aid Redesign

While a college education is more important than ever, students face unprecedented challenges in financing the cost. Policymakers across the country are faced with designing financial aid programs that foster postsecondary access and completion.

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.

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:

Student Centered

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.

Broadly Inclusive

Aid programs need to respond to the diverse enrollment options available to students.

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.

50-State Policy Scan

The 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.

Learn more

by digging into the

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.

Learn More 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 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.

With support from Strada Education Network, Education Commission of the States is addressing the critical issue of 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, Education Commission of the States is examining promising practices in state financial aid and assisting states in advancing policy.