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Higher Ed + Papers

Finding a Fit: The Evolution of Student-Centered Financial Aid

A publication focusing on identifying challenges and emerging solutions related to technology in the U.S. financial aid system.

Challenges and complexities within the financial aid process have a significant impact on students’ ability to pay for and complete school. Nearly 3 million students drop out every year for reasons related to finances.  Beginning in 2016, Tyton Partners conducted a national research study with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and in collaboration with AACRAO, NACAC, and NASFAA to better understand the issues in the US higher education financial aid system and begin to develop some potential solutions.

The focus of this work was to identify, from both a student and an administrator perspective, the issues that are causing friction and challenges within the current financial aid process – specifically, the barriers created by the existing system and the technology currently being used. There are obviously other issues regarding financing college – notably a lack of available funds and a myriad of issues related to government policy. Those areas are certainly important to improving the financial aid system, but they are not the focus of this paper.

This study had two parts: a study of the evolution of how higher ed institutions have adopted various form of technology, and a broad-based survey of more than 1,800 higher ed administrators to determine their views on financial aid technology and the financial aid system more broadly.  In addition to the survey, Tyton Partners also conducted over 30 in-depth interviews with higher education administrators, technology suppliers, and other financial aid experts.

This paper outlines the issues with the current system and offers a blueprint to help solve them as the market evolves. The stakes are high, as millions of students are currently failing to complete their degree, many for financial reasons.

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