This report explores the challenges low-income young adults face in accessing and using financial aid and the related trends contributing to inequality in post-secondary education today, as well as potential approaches funders can undertake to redesign financial aid to help students overcome these barriers.
- Observation: Funders can help by supporting efforts to leverage federal and state need-based aid, innovating aid access and delivery, and expanding the amount of aid in the system (particularly through public-private scholarships and increasing the fundraising capacity of community colleges).
- Challenge: The financial aid system is complex and unpredictable, aid institutions serving low-income students are under-resourced, and the types of aid most helpful in fostering completion (such as work-study and emergency aid) tend to be the least available.
- Challenge: Trends likely to continue in the near future are shifting financial aid dollars to students who are more likely to complete a degree whether or not they receive funding. These include the eroding purchasing power of the Pell Grant and shifts at the state level from need to merit-based aid.