• Financial Aid – Student Grant Programs

    Federal Policy Priorities

    • Maintain sufficient appropriation levels to support a base funding level of $4,860 in order to sustain the value of the maximum Pell Grant award.
    • Prioritize funding for the neediest individuals in any reform effort while striving for minimal impact on average award size and number of recipients.
    • Support continued funding for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) Program (see also Financial Aid—Campus-based Programs).

    State Policy Priorities

    • Encourage states to prioritize and invest in need-based grant programs that align with federal aid programs.
    • Support state programs that facilitate the completion of postsecondary credentials for non-traditional student populations.


    Grant funding is the simplest form of support for students pursuing postsecondary education. The funds originate from federal, state, and institutional funding sources. In many cases, these programs complement each other and offer access to students who might otherwise not have the opportunity to further their education. While some state and institutional programs award grant funding on a merit basis, AASCU advocates for the focus of all grant programs to be awarded based on need, as determined by financial circumstances.

    The mainstay of federal financial aid programs is the Pell Grant Program. Pell funding is projected to account for nearly $40 billion in fiscal year 2012, nearly three times the amount spent in 2007 of $14.4 billion. The 2012 amount supports an estimated 9.4 million students compared with 5.4 million students in 2007. The maximum award was $4,310 in 2007 but climbed to $5,550 in 2012—a nearly 30 percent increase.

    Moving in to fiscal year 2014 (FY 14), the Pell Grant program will present some difficult funding challenges not unlike fiscal year 2012 (FY 12). Heading in to FY 12, Congress was faced with an $11 billion funding shortfall for Pell. That year, Congress secured additional funding (some from revamping other financial aid programs) and also made reform changes to the program, most notably the end of awarding a second Pell Grant award in the same academic year more commonly known as Summer Pell. The discussion entering the FY 14 cycle will again revisit these areas of finding additional sources of funding and evaluating programmatic reforms, including the altering of student eligibility criteria. The projected shortfall, that is the amount that is projected to be needed to sustain the program without change and the amount available through the appropriations process, is approximately $5 billion.

    Potential casualties of this budget debate will be the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants Program (SEOG) and Federal Work Study Program. As federal budgets tighten and funding levels are lowered, these programs will be competing with Pell and other priorities for funds. The importance of these programs to providing access is enormous. For further discussion on these programs see also Financial Aid—Campus-based Programs.