Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Early Guarantee of Financial Aid Would Improve College Cost Transparency, Incentivize College Enrollment, Says New CAP Report
Press Release

RELEASE: Early Guarantee of Financial Aid Would Improve College Cost Transparency, Incentivize College Enrollment, Says New CAP Report

Despite changes, the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance, or FAFSA, serves as a barrier to college access. An early guarantee of financial aid is a key part of CAP’s College for All proposal, which builds on ideas proposed in the CAP-convened Inclusive Prosperity Commission report.

Washington, D.C. — Providing a guarantee of college financial aid to families when their children are in the eighth grade would help incentivize college enrollment and improve transparency of college costs, says a new report from the Center for American Progress. CAP proposes improving the federal financial aid system by providing an early guarantee of financial aid eligibility through the federal tax system and eliminating the need for students to fill out additional forms in order to receive federal aid.

“Despite recent changes made to the FAFSA, ​the document itself and the application process remain complex—and serve as a barrier to college access,” said David A. Bergeron, CAP’s Vice President of Postsecondary Education. “Families should be aware of financial aid availability long before a student’s senior year of high school.”

“Due to high costs and a lack of transparency on financial aid eligibility, a quality college education isn’t in the picture for many families. Providing an early guarantee of federal financial aid would help families make more informed decisions about college,” said Antoinette Flores, a Policy Analyst at CAP.

Today’s report is CAP’s third regarding its overarching College for All proposal, under which the federal government would provide every high school graduate financial support at a level equivalent to the tuition and fees of a public four-year college or university, ensuring that all high school graduates and their families know that they can afford college.

CAP’s proposal for an early guarantee of financial aid includes the following provisions:

  • Providing a guarantee of federal financial aid to families when their children are in the eighth grade because federal financial aid should not require students to fill out forms providing income data when this information is already collected and reported through the tax system
  • Building a financial aid calculator that works within the IRS income tax system to determine aid
  • Permitting states and institutions to use income data for families to make a more accurate assessment of financial need, allowing students and families to share income information with colleges and universities in order to help institutions make better and more informed decisions regarding what types and amounts of aid to provide students
  • Targeting and communicating tuition support and grant aid
  • Piloting an early guarantee of aid already granted under the current iteration of the Higher Education Act

College for All expands on a provision included in a recent report from the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, or IPC, a transatlantic board convened by CAP, composed of high-level American and international policymakers, economists, business leaders, and labor representatives, and focused on finding ways to expand the middle class through inclusive economic growth. The IPC’s report calls for aggressive action to expand postsecondary education opportunities for all Americans.

An overly complex system of financial aid, among other barriers, bars many low- and middle-income students from two- or four-year postsecondary education programs. Under College for All, students would repay a portion of the aid provided by the federal government, but the plan would use the IRS wage-withholding system to automatically repay student loans; provide simple, affordable repayment terms for all borrowers; share savings earned by the U.S. Department of Education with borrowers; and build a smarter system that proactively helps borrowers manage their debt. The overall goal of CAP’s College for All plan is to ensure that the United States has the skilled workforce and educated citizenry needed to achieve inclusive prosperity and to create a postsecondary education system that encourages economic growth.

Click here to read “Improving College Access and Degree Attainment Through an Early Guarantee of Federal Financial Aid” by David A. Bergeron and Antoinette Flores.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at [email protected] or 202.478.6331.