Policy & Systems Change

Policy & Systems Change

Our policy team works to transform financial aid systems so that they help rather than hinder college degree attainment. We advocate on behalf of first-generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds to ensure that they have a real opportunity to graduate college. 

Policy Priorities

Systems like the FAFSA, Pell Grants, and Federal Work-Study were created to alleviate unequal access to higher education. In practice however, these systems are cumbersome for administrators and unclear to students, making it difficult to deliver aid where it is most needed. By simplifying the pathways to federal aid, making college costs transparent to students, and ensuring equitable distribution of resources, uAspire seeks to create more degrees with less debt. 


  • Shorten the FAFSA
  • Streamline verification
  • Increase access to public benefits


  • Standardize financial aid terms
  • Require aid offer formatting
  • Mandate better loan counseling


  • Restore and strengthen the Pell Grant
  • Create equitable access to Work-Study
  • Expand aid to cover indirect expenses

Read the uAspire Policy Agenda

Featured Initiatives

Decoding_cover.jpgDecoding the Cost of College

Through a joint research project, uAspire and New America analyzed thousands of financial aid award letters. The research report, “Decoding the Cost of College: The Case for Transparent Financial Aid Award Letters,” identifies seven ways these letters fail to adequately inform students as they make decisions about investing in their own higher education, and offers solutions to improve terminology and formatting.

Download report executive summary
Download full report


HELP-testimony.jpgHigher Education Act Reauthorization

uAspire Chief Policy Officer Laura Keane provided expert testimony on January 18 before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee at a hearing on the Higher Education Act reauthorization. Keane and other panelists urged committee members to make the financial aid process more transparent and student-centered.

Watch committee hearing video (uAspire's testimony begins 39:45)
Download written testimony and oral testimony
Download uAspire's "12 Ways to Make the HEA Work for Students"
Read press release


MA-AGO-Simone-Tweet400x335.jpgMassachusetts Attorney General Award Letter Campaign

uAspire partnered with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to launch an online and social media campaign that helps families better understand financial aid packages and college costs. Over 4,600 people have accessed the online tools, while our educational videos reached an audience of over 20,000. 

Visit online campaign
Read press release


affording_to_finish_2017-cover400.pngAffording to Finish

We convened 35 national leaders to address the growing number of students facing food and housing insecurity, and leaving college because they are unable to cover costs. Innovative, scalable solutions to reduce their risk of dropping out are shared in our report, "Affording to Finish."

Download the report
Read press release


  • Released research report with New America, "Decoding the Cost of College: The Case for Transparent Award Letters"
  • Partnered with Colorado State University to simplify and improve their financial aid notification for students
  • Advising HELP Committee on award letter simplification and transparency


  • Published “Affording to Finish: Strategies to Improve Students' Financial Health and Degree Completion”
  • Partnered with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to launch an online and social media campaign that helps families better understand financial aid packages
  • Alongside the National College Access Network, discussed a streamlined FAFSA with the staffs of Senator Bob Casey (PA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA)
  • Hosted two Massachusetts convenings on the cost of higher education that engaged more than 130 practitioners and leaders


  • Met with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s staff to promote the value and importance of Pell Grants for California’s highest-need students 
  • Presented with TICAS at a congressional briefing to staffers on simplifying the burden of verification




Joining Forces to Break Down Barriers

As a member of these national coalitions, we expand our policy work and influence:

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