In a new study, Nicholas Hillman (Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Erica Lee Orians (Doctoral student, University of Utah) review the most recent and rigorous research on the role financial aid plays in improving college completion rates. With tuition rates consistently outpacing inflation and family incomes, along with the slow growth in educational attainment rates, the need for reforming state financial aid programs is becoming increasingly urgent to state policymakers. What can be done to reform state aid in ways that help increase college completion rates? This paper synthesizes the best evidence in the field, concluding reforms should:
- provide students with clear information about how to apply for aid;
- make the eligibility criteria simple and easy to understand;
- offer early commitments to students, far before they enter high school; and
- be well targeted to the state’s policy goals.