Of today’s student populations, an increasing number of students are juggling work, family, and education as they try to secure a career path with a living wage for themselves and their families. With tuition rates rising and student aid not keeping up, students are faced with larger amounts of unmet financial need. This unmet financial need reflects many real-life issues that students encounter, such as access to nutrition, housing, health care, child care, transportation, and a suite of other services. To attend to these needs, many students balance decisions (e.g., work less, take fewer courses, borrow more, stop out, drop out) that can threaten their academic progress and success.
Institutions can play a critical role in alleviating many of the pressures caused by economic hardships. In reviewing the research and working with colleges over the past few years, it’s clear that many institutions already are addressing these issues. This Beyond Financial Aid toolkit advocates for comprehensive financial support services along with practice and policy redesign that enable financial stability, thereby creating the conditions for students to stay in college and work towards their educational goals. Furthermore, the toolkit offers ways that institutions can build on their existing strengths and opportunities (e.g., connecting existing services together and to students), while identifying additional sources of support (e.g. internal and external partnerships). Supported by committed institutional leadership that meaningfully engages the campus community, college practitioners can work together to strengthen the financial stability of low-income students and simultaneously support their institutional commitment to student retention, persistence, completion, and success.
BFA aims to provide a clear framework for action, supported by research and literature, translated through six practical institutional strategies, and illustrated by two-year and four-year institutional and system examples from across the country. Through this approach, BFA is primarily designed to assist faculty, staff, and administrators across the institution collectively reflect on how their institution’s programs, services, and policies currently affect the financial stability of low-income students, and then help these practitioners plan and act to strengthen their approach and thus their student outcomes. Additionally, it can inform state and system leaders, policymakers, and legislators on agendas and actions related to college affordability and student financial stability.
RP Group Lead
Dr. Darla Cooper, Director of Research and Evaluation
RP Group Project Team Members
Lumina Foundation, National Center for Inquiry and Improvement
National Center for Inquiry and Improvement
Guides and Tools
Beyond Financial Aid
Toolkit including a literature review, a framework for action with six institutional strategies and examples, and an institutional self-assessment with interpretation guide to collectively assist colleges in increasing the financial stability of and closing attainment gaps for low-income students.
News and Events
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