New 50-state policy database includes 100 of the largest state-funded financial aid programs


While a college education is more important than ever, students face unprecedented challenges in financing the cost. Policymakers across the country are working to design financial aid programs that foster postsecondary degree access and completion.

Education Commission of the States, with support from USA Funds, is addressing this pervasive issue in a two-year intensive project focused on assisting states develop policies that will enhance affordability and, by extension, serve as a catalyst for college completion. The project launched in April 2015 with the release of the report Redesigning State Financial Aid: Principles to guide state aid policymaking.

Today, the Education Commission of the States announces the availability of a comprehensive 50-state database detailing 100 of the largest state financial aid programs across the country. This unique resource is intended to inform discussions surrounding current program design, innovative models already in practice in the states, and assist states in identifying peer programs from which to learn.

“The 50-state data reveals opportunities for states to rethink aid programs in light of contemporary students,” said Brian A. Sponsler, director of Postsecondary and Workforce Development at Education Commission of the States. “Exploring data from 100 of the largest aid programs provides policymakers an opportunity to learn from one another and gain valuable insights into how to design and implement improvements to financial aid programs and policies in their own states.”

Sample findings when analyzing the 100 largest state-funded programs include:

  • Twenty-nine programs will only fund students who enroll full-time.
  • Forty-three define the duration of the award by a set number of terms or years, as opposed to anchoring eligibility to the length of time needed to complete a program at varying enrollment intensities.
  • Thirty-three programs link aid eligibility to college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, or a high school grade point average – traditional college readiness measures that are of little relevance for adults returning to higher education after time in the workforce.

Another key deliverable of the Education Commission of the States and USA Funds project is state-specific, targeted technical assistance. Any state interested in engaging with Education Commission of the States and receiving direct support is encouraged to complete an online interest form via the State Financial Aid Redesign website.

For questions, contact Education Commission of the States Director of Communications Amy Skinner at or (303) 299.3609.


  • Redesigning State Financial Aid: Principles to guide state aid policymaking highlights the principles to consider when improving state financial aid policies and programs to best serve students.
  • Education Commission of the States’ Blueprint for College Readiness initiative provides guidance and support to the growing number of states working to improve student success and transition from high school into postsecondary.
  • States take a wide variety of approaches in making investments in postsecondary financial aid. This Trends in State Financial Aid report reviews policies enacted through state legislatures in the 2013 and 2014 sessions.

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