The broad benefits of higher education have encouraged a more diverse pool of students to go to college, accompanied by growing demand for financial aid. As needs and expectations have increased, the types and purposes of student aid have changed. This diffusion of purposes has eroded the focus of the financial aid system as a whole and clouded the public’s understanding of what student aid is, what its goals are, and who should receive it. This report reviews the main historical eras through which financial aid has evolved, resulting in the current era of multiple, diffused purposes—from encouraging student access and promoting affordability to rewarding student merit and improving institutional financial and administrative accountability. The report examines the implications of this diffusion for the continued expansion and support of student aid programs and funds.
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State of Diffusion: Defining Student Aid in an Era of Multiple Purposes
Published: August 1999