900K students applied for financial aid, qualified—and never received it

In 2017, more than 900,000 low-income students completed all the correct steps to qualify for grants from their state for higher education, then never received them when state funding fell short, according to The Hechinger Report. That same year, for the first time ever, public colleges and universities in more than 28 states relied more on tuition dollars than on government appropriations, according to a recent report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

In analyzing state data, The Hechinger Report found that 10 states—including Oregon, Kansas, Delaware, and Illinois—left more than half of eligible students without a grant. “In most states, the aid program comes from the general fund, and once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Sarah Pingel, senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States.

States have undertaken various strategies for dealing with their shortfalls. Some states operate on a first-come, first-served basis, which puts first-generation students with less financial aid literacy at a disadvantage from the start; others choose to give money to only the most at-need students. Some cap student aid to $700 to spread it more widely and thinly, and yet others give the universities discretion to pick and choose among their applicants.

The Hechinger Report’s analysis also dives into real-world examples of how inconsistent streams of financial aid have disrupted student enrollment, even between semesters, and put the lowest-income students at the greatest risk of dropping out. Read the article to see how your state stacks up.

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