ACSFA Provides Recommendations To Maintain And Increase Access To Higher Ed For Low- And Moderate-Income Students

College completion among young Americans is on the decline, posing significant challenges to President Obama’s goal of having the world’s highest rates of college completion by 2020. In a 2012 presentation given to graduate school faulty and staff across the nation, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) expanded upon two reports previously given to Congress and the Secretary of Education and provided suggestions to counteract decreasing college completion rates without limiting federal need-based grant aid programs. It also cited data from five National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports.

The advisory committee cited as one of the reasons for their presentation recent policy discussions that have focused on limiting federal need-based grant aid—largely without consideration for how alternative proposals might affect college enrollment and completion.

It also cited what it called an “ominous trend:” the completion rate of 25- to 34-year-olds is now lower than that of 35- to 44-year-olds. 

According to ACSFA, President Obama’s 2020 goals cannot be achieved without increasing need-based grant aid. The group makes six recommendations for stemming bachelor’s degree losses, including:

  1. Reinvigorate the access and persistence partnership with increase need-based grant aid from all sources.
  2. Restrain increases in the price of college and offset increases with need-based student aid.
  3. Moderate the trend – at all levels – toward merit-based aid and the increasing reliance on loans.
  4. Reduce financial barriers to transfer from two-year to four-year colleges.
  5. Strengthen early-intervention programs for low- and moderate-income students.
  6. Invest in efficient, productive remediation.

The committee further recommended that a national experiment be conducted to determine the impact of current features of the federal student loan programs on family financial concerns. Income-contingency and forgiveness provisions should be looked at, the committee said, to see how they might be improved to offset the negative effects felt by families. 

In order to achieve the goal of increasing bachelor’s degree attainment, it was recommended that the federal government pursue a comprehensive strategy that adequately addresses income-related inequalities in academic preparation, access, and persistence simultaneously. 

ACSFA was created by Congress in the Higher Education Amendments of 1986 to be an independent and nonpartisan source of advice and counsel on student financial aid policy to both Congress and the Secretary of Education. 


Publication Date: 5/7/2013

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