Undergraduate Financial Aid in the United States

Publication date: 
May, 2017
American Academy of Arts & Sciences
The Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education

Undergraduate Financial Aid in the United States

The publication provides an overview of undergraduate financial aid – its history, evolution, and controversies – and highlights key issues that are central to the future of higher education and the American economy. Scott-Clayton concludes that financial aid could generate even greater benefits to individuals and society by focusing on college completion in addition to college access, and by recognizing the importance of value in addition to affordability.

Over half a century ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act of 1965 into law, describing its goal as ensuring that “the path of knowledge is open to all that have the determination to walk it. It means that a high school senior anywhere in this great land of ours can apply to any college or any university in any of the 50 states and not be turned away because his family is poor.”

The act solidified the federal role in student financial aid, including the provision of federal grants, loans, and work-study assistance, which today remain the foundation of undergraduate aid for college. Much has changed since then. On the positive side, college-going rates have increased for students across the income spectrum. Overall, the percentage of twenty-four to thirty-year-olds with at least some college experience rose from just 33 percent in the late 1960s to 61 percent in 2009, including many who enrolled for the first time well after high school.

PDF icon CFUE_Financial-Aid.pdf1.11 MB
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