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. 

Simplification

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

Transparency

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

Equity

  • 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

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Student Advocacy Fellows Tackle College Costs

uAspire student advocacy fellows met with 43 state and federal lawmakers in June, including the offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Bob Casey, Senator Jim Toomey, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and the House Committee on Education and Labor. Fellows explained that indirect expenses were prohibitive costs well before COVID-19 and made policy recommendations to reduce the financial burden on students and improve cost communication.

Students Tackle Costs #BeyondTheCollegeBill During Virtual Advocacy Week

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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, 2019 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

2020

  • Signed letter from 51 organizations urging Congress to address the needs of students during and after COVID-19

2019

2018

  • 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

2017

2016

  • 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

Publications

New Report: Published June 2020

                                                    

Coalitions

Joining Forces to Break Down Barriers

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

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