CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
Cost of attendance is consistently cited as one of the most significant barriers to attending college by low-income families. To defray these costs, all but one state offers aid to students. Most state aid falls into two categories: need-based and non-need-based. Whereas non-need-based aid can increase the number of well-off students that choose in-state schools, need-based aid encourages low- and moderate-income students to attend college who might not otherwise without the aid.
To improve overall college attendance, states can provide adequate funding for financial aid. The national average for financial aid is $715 per undergraduate. States should ideally exceed that amount. To increase the number of low- and moderate-income students who attend college, states can ensure that aid is targeted to those who need it most. The national average for the percentage of state financial aid that is need-based is 76%. States should ideally exceed that percentage.
Strength of State Policies: Financial Aid for Postsecondary Education 1
|Is state funding for financial aid above|
national average of $715 per undergraduate?
|Is state financial aid targeted to high-need students?|
|Amount of financial|
aid per undergraduate
|Percent of financial aid|
that is need-based
|District of Columbia||$729||4%|
Notes on the Data
1. 45th Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Student Financial Aid: 2013-2014 Academic Year, (National Association of Student Grant and Aid Programs, 2015), Table 12. State funding for financial aid is adequate when it is above the national average of $715 per undergraduate, full-time equivalent. State financial aid is sufficiently targeted to high-need students when at least 76%, the U.S. average, of financial aid is allocated to high-need students.
How States Are Assessed
States receive credit for providing adequate financial aid funding if funding for financial aid is above the national average of $715 per undergraduate. States are given credit for sufficiently targeting financial aid to high-need students when at least 76%, the U.S. average, of financial aid is allocated to high-need students.
What States Have Done
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia provide more financial aid than the national average of $715 per undergraduate. One state, New Hampshire does not provide any financial aid to undergraduates. More than half of states (28) target a higher percentage than the national average (76%) of state financial aid to low- and moderate-income students. Georgia, New Hampshire and South Dakota do not provide any need-based financial aid.
Organizations and Experts:
- National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs
- State Higher Education Executive Officers Association
Guides, Briefs and Papers:
Palmer, Jim, "Grapevine: An Annual Compilation of Data on State Fiscal Support for Higher Education," Illinois State University, January 19, 2015.
CFED thanks Mike Solomon from the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs for his input and expertise on this policy issue.