Higher Education Act
Financial aid policy is important to APSCU and its member institutions because of its vital role in opening doors for the students we serve. Our primary focus is on strengthening policies that help low-income students and families who lack opportunities to pursue a postsecondary education without federal student aid.
Congressional reauthorization of the Higher Education Act gives us an opportunity to revisit student aid issues and focus our efforts on ensuring access for the students with the greatest need. APSCU has created a Reauthorization Task Force charged with rethinking ways to maintain access for students while simplifying the process and ensuring success.
In early March, APSCU released a white paper recommending policy changes to address three main goals: (1) increasing affordability and addressing the skills gap, (2) simplifying the financial aid process, and (3) improving accountability and transparency.
The proposed changes range from creating an entirely new institutional accountability system focused on outcomes, to ensuring that students receive accurate and comprehensive information, to financial aid that is more efficient and directed to those with the greatest need, to a student loan repayment system that embraces every student's individual ability to repay.
All students would benefit from a less confusing array of programs. The number of grant and loan programs, their changing terms and conditions, and the multitude of deadlines and forms can be intimidating and confounding. We suggest a streamlined and understandable student aid system that continues to support access for all students.
A robust Pell Grant program will help more students pursue a postsecondary education, and a simplified student loan program will help students better understand how much money is available, whether they are eligible, and their repayment obligations. In addition, with student debt levels a major concern, it's time to consider a simplified repayment process via a payroll deduction system.
Most important, we need to answer the question students and taxpayers are asking with increasing urgency: What are we getting for our money?
Simply promoting greater access, while critically important, is no longer adequate. Since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, concerns have escalated about the increasing cost of higher education, the debt students are accumulating, inadequate completion rates, and the return on investment for the student and the taxpayer. It's time to hold ourselves accountable for the money we spend on higher education. One way to do that is to look at metrics that consider which students are likeliest to complete their education.