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ERIC Number: ED553374
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Sep
Pages: 51
Abstractor: ERIC
Do No Harm: Undermining Access Will Not Improve College Completion. A Report to Congress and the Secretary of Education
Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance
The Advisory Committee was created by Congress in the "Higher Education Amendments of 1986" to be an independent and nonpartisan source of knowledge, advice, and counsel to Congress and the Secretary of Education on federal, state, and institutional postsecondary student assistance. One of the most important analytical directives in the Committee's authorizing language is to assess the likely impact of legislative and policy proposals. With reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) approaching, dozens of proposals to use federal student aid as a lever to improve college completion are emerging. The purpose of this report is to provide a framework for assessing the likely impact of such proposals. In previous HEA reauthorizations, proposals from the higher education community insisted that increases in federal need-based grant aid were required to ensure access and promote completion among low-income students. Thus, past proposals typically included additional funding for proposed changes to avoid tradeoffs between access and other goals. The implicit rule was: "Do no harm." In contrast, many of today's proposals contain changes financed not by increasing student aid funding but by "redistributing" existing funding among students and institutions, inevitably generating winners and losers. The most problematic of these proposed changes would seek to increase graduation "rates" by simply denying access to low-income students, leading to a reduction in the overall "level" of national college completion. The Advisory Committee proposes that the framework in this document be used throughout the upcoming HEA reauthorization process to distinguish between changes to federal student aid programs that would likely lead to the desired increases in overall college completion and those that would not. The Advisory Committee strongly supports evaluating the federal student aid programs to identify improvements that will benefit students and families and protect program integrity. The ultimate test is whether a program change assists needy students and families in pursuing their educational objectives, and supports achievement of the nation's access and completion goals. Pursuant to Section 491 of the HEA, the Advisory Committee will continue to evaluate proposed legislative changes against the criteria above in an objective and nonpartisan fashion throughout the upcoming reauthorization. The following are appended: (1) Prior ACSFA Recommendations, (2) ACSFA Members and Staff in FY 2013, and (3) ACSFA Authorizing Legislation.
Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. 80 F Street NW Suite 413, Washington, DC 20202-7582. Tel: 202-219-2099; Fax: 202-219-3032; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance