Student Finance Policies Worldwide: Leveraging Funding for Attainment and Equity in Higher Education

Student Finance Policies Worldwide: Leveraging Funding for Attainment and Equity in Higher Education

National policies aimed at improving access to and equity in higher education must be specifically targeted to underserved student populations in order to achieve significant impact, a report from the Global Attainment and Inclusion Network (GAIN), a learning community coordinated by the American Council on Education and funded by the Lumina Foundation, finds. The report, Student Finance Policies Worldwide: Leveraging Funding for Attainment and Equity in Higher Education (49 pages, PDF), examined four categories of public higher education financing policies designed to ensure equitable postsecondary enrollment and attainment — free tuition (both open and restricted-access), low tuition, high tuition supported by loans (mortgage-style and income-contingent), and dual-track policies (free or low tuition for a limited merit-based pool and higher tuition for others) — and found that most of the policies were ineffective. The study also found that blanket policies that apply to all students, such as free or low tuition, as well as those that rely on student loans to make high tuition rates temporarily affordable did not close existing disparities in access or persistence. By contrast, policies that target grants, loans, and lower or free tuition to economically and/or socially disadvantaged students were more likely to improve both access and attainment rates, while policies that incentivize institutions to improve equity or completion outcomes for marginalized students also showed promise.