"Cost is the main barrier facing many adults who pursue postsecondary credentials. As costs have increased, state and federal financial aid has not kept up. Unmet need (the gap between expenses and what adult students can pay) averages roughly $8,000 for the lowest-income students, a shortfall that they try to make up by working more hours, attending part-time and taking out sizable loans — all of which make completion more challenging. As more states provide free college through promise programs, it is important to remember that for many adult students attending lower-cost public institutions, living expenses are often costlier than tuition and fees," Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield writes for the Education Commission of the States.
"In light of these financial challenges, states can look beyond financial aid to a broader set of financial supports to help more low-income adult students. Providing low-income students access to public benefits — like subsidized child care, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — can reduce unmet need, decrease debt levels, increase financial stability and help students care for their families.
These programs provide states flexibility in determining rules that impact adult students, but many of these programs’ goals are not well-aligned with state goals of increasing the number of college graduates. In an effort to make it easier for states to align these policies, six federal department secretaries released a federal interagency letter, 'Aligning Federal Supports and Program Delivery for College Completion,' that highlighted how those who are receiving benefits, such as SNAP or subsidized housing, can benefit from federal financial aid to go to college. The resources connected to the letter provide valuable guidance for states to better align public benefits rules to support college attendance and completion, and to help put low-income students on a path to economic independence."
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Publication Date: 11/27/2017