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ERIC Number: ED538626
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Dec
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
A System in Need of Repair: An Examination of Federal Student Aid for Postsecondary Education
Roc, Martens; DeBaun, Bill
Alliance for Excellent Education
Three years after signing the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965--legislation that established the Basic Education Opportunity Grant (now called the Pell Grant)--President Lyndon Johnson declared that "every man, everywhere, should be free to develop his talents to their full potential--unhampered by arbitrary barriers of race or birth or income." As it was originally designed, the federal student financial aid system was intended to increase access to higher education for students who would otherwise be unable to attend. In the nearly five decades since the enactment of the HEA, however, there have been numerous legislative changes that have altered the structure and focus of the system. Today, many students and families find obtaining information about federal aid challenging and the process of applying for aid daunting. In fact, last year nearly 750,000 students initiated the financial aid application process but had their application returned because of insufficient data--and never resubmitted. The federal student aid system has grown into a complicated web of programs that are not clearly or purposefully coordinated to help students complete a degree or certificate. The system consists of grant, loan, and campus-based aid programs under Title IV of the HEA, as well as several federal tax credits and deductions. The federal student aid system is currently oriented around the admirable goal of increasing access to postsecondary education. Unfortunately, the system is not focused on helping these students cross the finish line once they start the race. Nationally, retention rates from the first to second year in both two- and four-year institutions are 67 percent or less. On-time completion rates are also disappointingly low, even for four-year private institutions, which graduate slightly more than 50 percent of students in four years. The federal student aid system can and must work better. Americans must demand a system that offers returns on the national investment in higher education and gives incentives and supports for students to complete postsecondary degrees. In an upcoming paper, the Alliance for Excellent Education will outline recommendations for reforming the federal student aid system to significantly increase the rates at which students enroll in and, most importantly, complete postsecondary programs. (Contains 2 tables and 31 endnotes.)
Alliance for Excellent Education. 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 901, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-828-0828; Fax: 202-828-0821; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Alliance for Excellent Education