Brookings Advocates Strengthening State Grant Programs

The Brookings Institution State Grant Aid Study Group has unveiled their new report ‘Beyond Need and Merit: Strengthening State Grant Programs.’

For grant dollars to make as much difference as possible in the lives of students and in the future of state economies, state grant programs must be designed to produce the largest possible return on taxpayers’ investment, argue the authors. In this policy report, the study group examines the variety of state grant programs currently in place and makes policy recommendations based on the best available research.

The Brooking Group advocates a shift away from the dichotomy between need-based and merit-based aid and instead aim for a system that integrates the targeting of students who are in financial need with support for college success.

There are interactive maps and individual profiles of each site hosted on the website.

The report makes the following main recommendations:

Given the limited amount of aid dollars available, that helping students with financial aid should be better targeted at students with both the most potential to succeed and who are also the most constrained by limited financial resources.

That states should consolidate and simplify programs to make the system easier for parents and students to understand and navigate.

That states should welcome federal simplification efforts and resist the temptation to delay reforms by seeking additional data which will only cause a re-complication of the process.

That programs should be designed in a way that encourages timely completion, States can reward concrete accomplishments such as credit completion with aid money to incentivize on-time degree completion.

That while improving state grant programs is difficult in a strained financial climate and rationing of funds is unavoidable this only makes proper targeting of aid more crucial. What should be avoided is an arbitrary decision to award money based on early application, especially when no deadline has been specified in advance.

That states can ration funds while still targeting the aid dollars appropriately by reducing income limits and reducing all grants slightly.

That states should test innovative approaches with pilot programs which can be extended once found to be successful and replace an existing, less efficient, program.

Rising college tuition levels—accelerated by cuts in state funding for public universities— have combined with today’s tough economic realities to make financing a postsecondary education even more difficult for students and their families. State grant programs are more important than ever to make college possible for many students who could not otherwise afford to enroll.