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 ensuring equitable distribution of resources, making college costs transparent to students, and simplifying the pathways to federal aid, uAspire seeks to create more degrees with less debt. 


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


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


  • Streamline the FAFSA
  • Reduce verification burden
  • Increase access to public benefits

Read the uAspire Policy Agenda

Read the California Policy Priorities


As the primary consumers of higher education, students’ expertise should drive policy change. Through a paid fellowship program, uAspire supports college students from Massachusetts, California, and the Mid-Atlantic to build advocacy skills and educate those in power to make higher education more affordable and equitable. uAspire Student Advocacy Fellows gain real-world advocacy experience while building their professional network.

Application for the 2021-22 Fellowship is now open through September 9, 2021! Learn more

Meet uAspire's Student Advocacy Fellows

Featured Initiatives

Decoding_cover.jpgFellows Tackle College Costs

uAspire student advocacy fellows met with 43 state and federal lawmakers in June 2020, 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

Decoding the Cost of CollegeDecoding_cover.jpg

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


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



  • 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



  • 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:

            CCO-Logo-(1).png        ticas-logo-(1).png          MA Hunger Free Campus CoalitionMEEP-Logo-(1).jpg                   NCAN_logo_member_RGB.jpg