Strengthening the Federal Role in the Federal-State Partnership for Funding Higher Education

Brief

Strengthening the Federal Role in the Federal-State Partnership for Funding Higher Education

December 28, 2020

Abstract

The national interest in narrowing the gaps in educational opportunity across socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups and in increasing educational attainment cannot be addressed without a strong federal effort. Pell grants, the primary form of federal investment in higher education, provide funding for low-income students to attend college. Increasing them is important but not sufficient. Among other issues, they do not solve funding and tuition differences across states. 

A federal-state partnership to fund higher education could help address these equity gaps, but whether such a program achieves policymakers’ goals will depend on the details. This brief looks at college affordability proposals—including those for free or debt-free college— and examines who would benefit from different plans and how the distribution of benefits changes based on program design decisions.

Research Area: 
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