News & Events / Advocates Unite to Advance Federal Student Aid Simplification and Transparency

Advocates Unite to Advance Federal Student Aid Simplification and Transparency

Published May 13, 2014

Washington, D.C., June 13, 2013—A consortium of seven organizations that promote higher education policy reform will further explore the issue of financial aid simplification and transparency as a continuation of the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery (RADD) project. The consortium is funded by a $340,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will be shared among the National College Access Network, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), the New America Foundation, the College Board, the Center on Postsecondary and Economic Success at CLASP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and Young Invincibles. The goals of the grant are to:

  • Continue to raise awareness about federal financial aid simplification and transparency issues. Inform the debate on the desirable outcomes and possible unintended consequences of reforms.
  • Drive towards policy coherence on financial aid simplification and transparency.

“The first phase of the RADD project succeeded in generating many policy reform ideas, getting attention on Capitol Hill, and connecting organizations with similar policy agendas,” NCAN’s executive director Kim Cook said. “This new grant will allow us to work in partnership with other strong policy organizations and to develop more detailed options to simplify the aid system and increase the availability of information about student outcomes so that families can make better decisions about where to enroll in higher education.”

“Although the federal government has taken steps to simplify the financial aid process and increase the transparency of institutional outcomes for students in recent years, many barriers remain that hinder college attainment,” said IHEP Vice President for Policy Research Jennifer Engle, Ph.D. “The availability of financial aid represents a bare opportunity for students—an opportunity in name only—if students do not apply for it. And yet, research demonstrates that low-income, underserved populations lack information about financial aid, and as a result, do not attend college or attend college but work significant numbers of hours, reducing their eligibility for aid as well as their chances for success.”

A more simple and transparent aid system could:

  • Increase access to college for disadvantaged populations by increasing knowledge about and uptake of available financial aid.
  • Improve college choice by providing students with comparable information about institutions that offer them a quality education at an affordable price, thereby reducing stratification into institutions with low completion rates, poor earnings/employment outcomes, and/or high costs.
  • Improve outcomes by providing students with timely, predictable information about and access to financial aid throughout their educational experience so they can shorten time-to-degree while reducing debt levels.

Specifically, this consortium will explore and advance the following policy issues to develop a simpler, more transparent federal aid system.

  1. Financial aid simplification and early awareness, including consideration of the feasibility of eliminating the FAFSA form and using the tax process in its place to determine federal student aid eligibility.
  2. Recommended postsecondary data and metrics for consumers, including potential sources for data.
  3. Options for obtaining recommended data and opportunities to reduce the data burden on postsecondary institutions.

The project will result in several reports, events, and policy briefings through the end of the grant in March 2014.

For more information, contact: Elizabeth Morgan, or 202-236-7118.