At IHEP, we believe all people, regardless of background or circumstance, can reach their full potential by participating and succeeding in higher education. But too many hardworking students still struggle to afford a college education, and historically underserved students remain underrepresented. The next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) must narrow longstanding inequities in college access, success and affordability for all students. We urge federal policymakers to include these priorities in the next reauthorization.
Use high-quality data to improve student outcomes
Our existing federal postsecondary data infrastructure is duplicative, inefficient, and doesn’t capture the diversity of today’s students. It fails to answer critical questions about college enrollment, completion, costs and outcomes. Without answers to these questions, students can’t make fully-informed college decisions, and lawmakers can’t develop responsive policies aimed at improving student success or advancing educational equity. We urge policymakers to pursue solutions that promote transparency, remove existing regulatory barriers, reduce institutional burden and provide better data to inform decisions.
- Create a secure, privacy-protected student-level data network to inform students, families, policymakers, and institutions and help them make evidence-based decisions, by including the College Transparency Act in HEA.
Strengthen and protect need-based financial aid
The Pell Grant is the cornerstone of federal student aid within our higher education system and provides essential assistance to hardworking students. We urge policymakers to help more low- and moderate-income students afford a college education by strengthening and protecting the Pell Grant, as well as other vitally important need-based aid.
- Significantly increase the maximum Pell Grant award amount to reverse its declining purchasing power, permanently index the grant to inflation to prevent future decline, and make the program funding mandatory, not discretionary, to reduce annual uncertainty.
- Protect funding for need-based aid programs, including the Pell Grant, the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, and federal loan subsidies, to help more students afford college and incur less student loan debt.
- Raise the income threshold for an automatic-zero estimated family contribution (EFC), to $34,000, to simplify the aid process for low- and moderate-income students.
Allow incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students to access federal financial aid
Barriers to college access for students – like the 1994 ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals – reinforce cycles of poverty and mass-incarceration that disproportionally impact communities of color while costing the nation more in the long term. When incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students participate in postsecondary education, they are less likely to recidivate, and they reenter society better-equipped to secure employment and provide for themselves and their families. We urge policymakers to improve college access and affordability for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students seeking to reach their full potential.
- Lift the ban on the use of Pell Grants by individuals who are incarcerated in federal and state penal institutions.
- Eliminate consideration of drug offenses for federal student aid eligibility, leading to the removal of Question 23 on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which asks applicants about drug convictions for an offense that occurred while receiving federal student aid.
Foster increased college access and degree completion for all students, especially underrepresented students and students who stop-out
To close equity gaps for underrepresented students – especially students of color, low-income students, and adult learners – we urge policymakers to pursue targeted strategies that encourage institutions to expand access, increase graduation rates, and help students who have stopped-out or paused their studies get back on track and complete their degrees.
- Enable more seamless institution-to-institution reverse credit transfers that award students who pause their studies the credentials they have earned—only after obtaining their full consent—by including the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act in HEA.
- Incent colleges and universities to expand access and degree completion for students of color and low-income students, by including proposals such as those offered in the Access, Success, and Persistence in Reshaping Education (ASPIRE) Act in HEA.
To learn more about IHEP's priorities for HEA reauthorization, please contact Kelly Leon at firstname.lastname@example.org.