Several possible solutions to the college access puzzle involve financial aid, according to a new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).
In “Access to Attainment: An Access Agenda for 21st Century College Students,” IHEP lays out a five-step approach to helping more low-income students to and through college – a national imperative set forth by President Obama.
One step, “Invest: Make College Affordable,” recommends solutions to current problems with college costs and financial aid, including:
1. Prioritization: IHEP argues that, when funding is scarce, aid should be allocated to the neediest students to help them access and graduate from a higher education program without overborrowing.
“Nearly all [94 percent] low-income students have unmet need even after receiving grant aid from all sources, making them more likely to borrow and to borrow more than their high-income peers,” according to IHEP.
2. Simplification: The financial aid process should be made “simple, transparent, predictable, and streamlined across institutions, states, and the federal government,” IHEP recommends.
In addition, all students should have to fill out the FAFSA, according to the report. “In 2011-2012, more than 1.75 million college students who would have likely qualified for a Pell grant did not even file a FAFSA,” the report notes.
3. Clarification: IHEP’s third solution involving financial aid includes it as one of many college processes to be “streamlined.”
“Clarify policies and procedures related to course scheduling, degree requirements, registration deadlines, and financial aid to remove structural barriers to completion,” the report recommends. This could help to combat the statistic that only 20 percent of low-income students are likely to earn a degree within six years of enrolling, according to the report.
These are only a few of the many solutions IHEP identified in its Access Agenda, which includes input from representatives of nine other organizations including the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and Texas Guaranteed (TG.) Taken together, the recommendations aim to help low-income students out of poverty and the country towards its college completion goals for 2020.
“Implementing these solutions to the access problem is well within our collective capabilities,” the report states. “We must now resolve to demonstrate collective will and action and hold ourselves accountable for doing so.”
Publication Date: 12/10/2014