Brookings Institute Recommends States Simplify Aid Programs

States should re-examine their grant programs to increase educational attainment, according to a report released yesterday at an event held by the Brookings Institute. 

Brookings photoA panel of student aid experts presented key findings from the institute's 41-page report, "Beyond Need and Merit: Strengthening State Grant Programs," written by the 14-member Brookings Institute State Grant Aid Study Group. The panel included, Sandy Baum, higher education policy analyst; Matthew Chingos, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy; John Hayek, Senior Vice President for budget, policy, and planning for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education; and William "Brit" Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.  

The group was chaired by Baum who presented the report’s key policy recommendations, including the need to simplify state aid programs. The group also urges states to move away from the dichotomy between "need-based" and "merit-based" aid and integrate targeting of students with financial need with appropriate expectations and support for college success.    

The report provides specific policy recommendations to help states design grant programs that:

  • Focus resources on students whose chances of enrolling and succeeding in college will be most improved by the receipt of state support.
  • Consolidate and simplify programs in order to make them easily understood by prospective college students and their families. 
  • Encourage timely completion by rewarding successful students and providing incentives to promote college success.
  • Improve state grant programs in difficult financial times by tweaking and re-structure existing programs while creating innovative approaches.

Kirwan told the 80 attendees at the event that he agreed with the group's recommendations, but said the report did not convey "a sense of urgency to implement" the findings. He also stressed the need to slow the rising cost of college.

"As sensible as the report is," said Kirwan, "It will have little impact if we don’t have the means to stabilize tuition cost."