Advancing Equity Through a Universal Financial Aid Application Policy

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Financial aid opens the door to a college degree and makes higher education a real possibility for students from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Student knowledge about financial aid availability and application processes, however, varies substantially by race, ethnicity, and income. Despite belonging to families with lower-than-average family incomes and higher-than-average rates of poverty, Black, Latinx, underrepresented Asian American and NHPI, and AIAN students are the least likely to know about existing assistance to pay for college (e.g., federal and state financial aid programs) and tend to leave a substantial amount of financial aid untapped.

Advancing Equity Through a Universal Financial Aid Application shares the benefits of policies requiring high school seniors to complete a state or federal financial aid application that supports their attainment of a college degree. High school seniors who complete financial aid applications enroll in college at higher rates than their peers who do not; this is especially true for students from low-income backgrounds. When students know they will receive grant aid for college, their college persistence and probability of degree attainment go up. A universal financial aid application can ensure that more students receive financial aid for college, and therefore more students can succeed in achieving their college dreams.