Higher Education Advocates Call For Financial Aid Accountability
If advice offered by The Institute for College Access & Success is taken, we may soon see much more accountability in the way that colleges and universities dispense financial aid. In a white paper released earlier this week, “Aligning the Means and the Ends: How to Improve Federal Student Aid and Increase College Access and Success, ” TICAS outlined more than 25 recommendations on how to change financial aid with an eye toward improving the educational outcomes for college students.
Notably, TICAS has recognized that millions of college students and their families receive financial assistance each year. Various grants, student loans and tax benefits make it possible for students to attend college, while recognizing that such assistance does boost enrollment and increases college completion rates. However, the organization also noted that there are significant gaps between enrollment and outcomes, a problem TICAS wants to see narrowed.
“When it works as it should, financial aid enables all students willing to study hard to go to college and get a quality credential without burdensome debt,” said TICAS president Lauren Asher. “Federal aid can and must do more to keep college within reach for all students and families.”
Among the many recommendations offered included streamlining and simplifying the federal aid application process by tapping data supplied by the IRS. This would make it easier for students to assemble information that is already on file.
TICAS also believes that educational institutions that target low-income students should be compensated accordingly, while also being given room to innovate. These schools would be held accountable for outcomes to ensure that students and taxpayers alike are protected.
Raising the Federal Pell Grant limit has been debated for years and TICAS would like to go beyond the usual adjustments for inflation to double the maximum for some students. Specifically, low-income college students would receive greater assistance to help them finish their studies.
TICAS also would like the undergraduate student loan program to be overhauled, removing the current fees and reducing the interest rates while students are still in school. A fixed interest rate during the repayment period would parallel what current college students are paying. Moreover, TICAS would like loan payments to be manageable with automatic forgiveness kicking in after 20 years.
One area that college students may overwhelmingly favor is offering tools that clearly demonstrate what families can expect to pay for college, with standardized award letters offered.
TICAS believes that many of is recommendations enjoy broad bipartisan support. Some changes will not cost money to implement while other changes will require additional investments to make it happen. In its white paper the organization outlined the steps that could be taken to make this happen.
Ultimately, financial aid reform is something that is likely to be embraced by most people. Fraud, abuse and poor management of funds are related problems, one of several drivers that may make reform possible over the coming years, with the intent to increase student outcomes with it.
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