Today’s Students

Many of today’s federal postsecondary education and job training policies were developed during the 1960’s and ‘70s, when most students attending postsecondary education went immediately to a four-year or trade school after graduating from high school.

But an increasing number of students are returning to college as adults. Federal policies should better serve today’s students by emphasizing completion, updating financial aid, and ensuring better information for students and taxpayers.

Increase student completion.

Federal financial aid should be focused on student outcomes and only go to providers that show clear evidence or improvement of high-quality outcomes for students. To ensure quality, all federal programs and providers should be evaluated based on their effectiveness at helping students obtain the degrees, certificate, and credentials they need to succeed.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Support college access and completion programs with high levels of evidence.
  2. Provide support for student-centered programs that offer non-academic support.
  3. Update federal program requirements across-the-board to focus on the educational attainment of today’s students in regulations and reporting.
  4. Support approaches that improve college readiness and efforts to reduce remedial enrollment.

Reform yesterday’s student aid system to serve today’s students.

Federal financial aid should be redesigned with a focus on the needs of today’s students, especially those who are on their own financially and may need to attend class outside of the traditional two-semester approach.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Reform Federal Work Study to incent completion, expand Job Location Development Programs, ease requirements for off-campus work, and incentivize the connection between aid and course of study.
  2. Consider part-time student enrollment in time-intensity requirements and the definition of cost of attendance.
  3. Simplify the student aid application process and ensure financial aid information is presented to students in an easy to understand format.
  4. Identify and enact policies to assist students facing food and housing insecurity, including improved coordination between state and federal agencies.

Improve student data and information systems to include today’s students.

Data gathered about students should cover the full spectrum of today’s students, not just first-time, full-time students. Students, their families, schools, and the public need clear information to make educational choices about programs and costs, including the likelihood of success of other students who are like them and their potential return on investment. Additionally, policymakers and institutions need to be able to assess institutional and programmatic success for the entire student population to make smart policy choices for all of today’s students.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Improve data systems to reflect all of today’s students and provide information about the value of a prospective student’s education.
  2. Implement a consumer friendly, easy-to-use system for students and their families to navigate postsecondary education choices.