Over the past several years, experts from all areas of higher education have been concerned by the apparent downward spiral of the financial aid system. There have been suggestions to cut financial aid completely, to enhance financial aid programs, and to do everything in between. None of the proposed solutions have seemed truly feasible long term, however. Now, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has released a white paper
entitled “The American Dream 2.0” as part of its larger financial aid reform efforts. This paper suggests changes to current financial aid in order to boost college completion rates
Contents of the Paper
The Gates-sponsored group includes members from the Lumina Foundation, Purdue University, and many other key players in the higher education field. The paper criticizes low completion rates, since the current rates see only about half of all full-time, first time students graduating with a degree within six years. The paper also states that colleges and universities need to do more to meet the needs of nontraditional students, and that financial aid procedures need to be more user-friendly and transparent.
In addition, the group pushes for a strengthening of Pell Grants for students with financial need as well as the streamlining of tax credits and multiple grants. The group also proposes that the federal government take steps to encourage institutes of higher learning to invest and innovate in research into the effectiveness of financial aid. They feel that, as much as possible, colleges and universities should consider graduate outcomes when awarding financial aid to help decrease the problem of unaffordable student debt loads and college dropout rates.
While the report is far from a complete consensus on the need and methods of financial aid reform, it represents the closest the industry is to a universal solution. While further organizations are due to release their own white papers within coming weeks, this may be one of the most important steps taken to improve financial aid for students thus far.