A new report in the form of a “white paper” from a panel of higher education experts, including college presidents and related leaders, has called for changes to federal financial aid to simplify the process and give a boost to graduation rates.
The paper, “The American Dream,” was published by HCM Strategist, a public policy group that is part of larger efforts by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to affect changes to financial aid and see graduation rates increase.
The group, which includes some well-know names, including Mitch Daniels the former Indiana governor, now Purdue University president, set out many recommendations that are already familiar. In this final report the group laments low college completion rates (about one-half of first time, full-time students do not graduate within six-years) consequently recommending that colleges pay more attention than they do now to non-traditional students, in addition to making the financial system easier to navigate and more transparent.
The Pell Grant Program, the core federal aid for needy students, needs strengthening and streamlining multiple grants and tax credits, according to the group. The report also states that the federal government should persuade colleges to renovate and invest more in researching financial aid’s effectiveness.
In this era of high college student debt, the report suggests that colleges should link student aid “to the extent possible,” to student and graduate outcomes. Along with the report were polling data to suggest that voters, while very supportive of higher education, are more aware and concerned about the high student debt levels (and rightly so) than they are about the college dropout rate.
Several other organizations are preparing their own reports on federal financial aid as part of the Gates initiative. As several commission members here are leaders of those organizations, HCM’s effort may be the closest opportunity the different group will get to having a consensus on changes to financial aid.
Several more organizations will likely issue their “white papers” next week.
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