Policy & Systems Change

Policy & Systems Change

By leveraging uAspire’s expertise and partnering with policymakers, our policy team works to transform financial aid and higher education systems so that they help rather than hinder college degree attainment.

We advocate on behalf of low-income and first-generation college students to ensure that they have a real opportunity to graduate college, without life-limiting debt. From our on-the-ground experience with thousands of students nationwide, we have a deep understanding of the challenges they face and what can be done to fix them. We make sure that the student perspective is part of the conversation on college affordability and the systems that greatly impact their lives and families. 

Policy Priorities

The financial aid process is far too complicated and can disadvantage low-income students who may assume that college is financially out of reach, simply because they don’t know how the system works. We work to make financial aid systems more equitable, efficient, and effective.

Students confront a detrimental lack of information and transparency when making one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. Financial aid packages from colleges can be confusing and vary greatly. This makes it nearly impossible for students to determine the bottom line costs. We promote consistent and comparable packaging of financial aid to improve student decision-making and decrease student debt.

Many students leave college without a degree because they simply cannot afford to cover all the costs of attending college, like textbooks and transportation. A growing number of students even face food and housing insecurity. We work to improve the accuracy of full cost of attendance as well as streamline postsecondary systems so students can better navigate how to afford to finish the collge degree they start.

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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