State Failure To Plan Sets Up Students To Fail

October 18, 2019

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Title: The Strategic Alignment of State Appropriations, Tuition, and Financial Aid Policies

Authors: James Dean Ward, Cindy Le, Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta, & Jesse Margolis

Source: Ithaka S+R

A new issue brief released by Ithaka S+R argues that states should prioritize developing coherent policy agendas for higher education funding, in order to maximize efficient use of appropriated and increasingly limited taxpayer funds, while also improving a range of student outcomes. The authors focus on three areas where states should give attention so as to harmonize their efforts: state appropriations, tuition-setting policies, and state financial aid policies.

Citing California’s 2018-19 formula that incorporates a measure of equity by assigning a portion of funding based on the number of low-income students enrolled at the institution, the brief covers alterations to typically-used funding formulas, providing examples for how to leverage the funding formula as a policy lever to improve access for underserved students. Various effects and consequences of tuition-setting policies are also highlighted, including how tuition-setting affects sticker pricing, which, depending on the amount, may deter some students from applying; in-state tuition restrictions for DACA students; and the costs to both states and students due to the complexity of the entire financial aid application process.

The brief concludes by encouraging policymakers to first undertake development of a coherent plan that takes into account their state’s specific circumstances and contextual conditions and avoids duplicating already enacted federal efforts. Several questions to consider during strategic alignment and planning purposes are posed to help guide development and measure success of such plans.

To read the full report, please visit the Ithaka S+R website here.


-Charles Sanchez


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