The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year awarded 16 grants to organizations focused on reforming the federal financial aid system. Leading groups from public policy, business, higher education, and civil rights were charged with recommending scalable ways to improve financial aid so that earning a college degree is both affordable and accessible.
The 16 organizations that received Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery (RADD) funding have issued reports. NASFAA introduced its RADD report Feb. 13 at a press conference in Washington, D.C., where NASFAA officials outlined the key elements of student loan reform and streamlining critical consumer information.
Alliance for Excellent Education
This report outlines the Alliance for Excellent Education’s recommendations for changing the federal student aid system to focus more purposefully on student access to and completion of postsecondary education. These recommendations to incentivize institutional accountability and support for students, simplify the student aid system, assist the highest-need students, and help the middle class could truly transform the system into one that serves students and their families better.
America's Promise Alliance
In February 2013, America’s Promise hosted its third annual Building a Grad Nation Summit. As part of the Summit, America’s Promise convened a unique roundtable discussion of 23 participants with diverse perspectives, including students, high school counselors, college financial advisers, researchers, businesspeople, and leaders of both national and community-based organizations focused on helping students access and succeed in college. The report provides a detailed account of the discussion and policy recommendations put forth.
Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities
A “student risk index,” redefinition of institutional eligibility to participate in the Pell Grant and student loan programs, and requiring “satisfactory academic progress” for continued use of veteran’s benefits and tax benefits by students and families are among a list of actions proposed in a new staff paper on the future of federal financial aid programs released by APLU.
Center for Law & Social Policy
Any reform of federal student aid must address the twin challenges of college affordability and completion, which are inextricably linked. Here [CLASP has] proposed ways to redirect existing federal student aid spending toward the low- and modest- income families who need it most. These are the students for whom federal aid makes a difference in whether they can enroll in college at all, and whether, once there, they can make school their primary focus, rather than having to work so many hours that completion becomes a receding, perhaps impossible, goal.
Committee for Economic Development
In a more efficient system of financial aid, the federal government, state governments and institutions would work together to increase college access. The proposal in this paper, which is centered on replacing current federal non-loan programs with a joint federal-state matching grant program, is designed to make sure that all actors in the system are working on the same problem—increasing college enrollment among those who might not otherwise go. Expending resources on students who might not otherwise attend college reduces the inefficient use of financial aid money that characterizes the current system.
America has some of the finest colleges in the world, but the promise of higher education is realized by too few. The Ed Trust's new report, "Doing Away With Debt: Using Existing Resources to Ensure College Affordability for Low and Middle Income Families," suggests that for students who are willing to study, work, or serve their communities, the federal and state governments, along with their institutions, should make sure they can afford to go to college without the fear of crushing student loan debt.
Exelencia in Education
This white paper uses a Latino lens to articulate challenges and opportunities for financial aid policy, using both public data and input by students, institutional partners, and other stakeholders. The Latino lens is not intended to exclude consideration of other groups. Instead it offers a contemporary lens to more accurately see America’s student population. It provides a fresh perspective on financial aid policy by using the profile of this young and growing population as the baseline, rather than the footnote, to define the post-traditional student.
The financial aid system – its collective $226 billion in investment – needs to be seen as part of the solution for a nation that needs many more skilled graduates, a stronger middle class and greater opportunity. In size and scope, student financial aid is more important than ever.
Institute for Higher Education Policy
The white paper, Making Sense of the System: Financial Aid for the 21st-Century Student, outlines 13 federal policy recommendations for improving the financial aid system so that more students can attend and succeed in college, and ultimately earn valuable postsecondary degrees and credentials.
This report puts forward broad policy considerations to generate discussion and debate with the goal of advancing key policy issues facing student aid. The policy brief delves into four major areas of future study, including the Value of Institutional and Student “skin in the game,” student loan reform, streamlining and improving consumer information, and rethinking entitlement and professional judgment.
National College Access Network
This report suggests maintaining full funding for Pell Grants and restore year-round Pell Grants within the 12-semester lifetime limit, refocusing a portion of current tax credits and subsidized loan program savings to the Pell Grant program, and promoting and utilizing the Income-Based Repayment program to help more low-income students to pay back their federal student loans by automatically enrolling all recipients in IBR.
National Urban League
This survey paper, which largely discusses the views of African-Americans on financial aid and college access, recommends that the federal government offer mandatory financial aid literacy classes for students and families. Further recommendations include requiring that institutions be more transparent about their costs, developing “postsecondary affordability simulation workshops,” and modifying the ways the federal government determines student loan interest rates.
New America Foundation
With a “funding cliff” looming for years to come, the Pell Grant program is clearly on an unsustainable path. So far, policy- makers, in the midst of high-stakes budget negotiations, have responded with a series of short-term solutions to shore up the program on a year-to-year basis. Some of these solutions – such as eliminating the year-round Pell Grant and ending financial aid eligibility for students without a high school diploma or GED – were not well thought out and are counterproductive.
The Institute for College Access & Success
This white paper calls for major changes to federal student aid, including Pell Grants, student loans, and tax benefits, with the goals of increasing college affordability and completion. More than two dozen recommendations would simplify the financial aid system, from applying for aid to repaying student loans; better target resources; reduce waste and fraud; and align incentives for colleges with better outcomes for students.
US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce
The members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Task Force on Student Aid believe that we need to elevate the urgency of the issue and the business community has an opportunity to provide leadership. Whether and how we fix student aid affects our productivity, our ability to compete, and our ability to move forward toward economic prosperity.
Many of the policies laid out [by Young Invincibles] must also come as part of a comprehensive overhaul of higher education financing, lest we face a familiar situation where simplification and streamlining are code words for “cut.” For federal financial aid to work well in an environment of ever increasing importance of higher education, it will need all stakeholders involved to dedicate themselves to the goals of increasing access for low-income students; keeping debt levels down; graduating more students and getting them into good jobs; and ultimately, to making the decisions necessary to fully invest in this generation’s success.