Our society continues to assign considerable value to higher education and, for the most part, desires to have it in the reach of deserving students. Differences arise, however, over the definition of deserving and who should pay for that education. When limited financial resources are available from government as well as from the private sector, student financial aid resources must be used efficiently. The congressional elections of 1994 and 1996 seem to indicate that the majority of the electorate desires to downsize big government, with its bureaucracy and red tape, and to bring decisions on policy and resource utilization closer to the affected populations and the taxpayers who must finance them.
The model presented in this essay seeks to assign to the three sources of student financial aid--the federal government, state governments, and the institutional and private sector--responsibility for helping to fund specific college costs that students and their parents cannot pay. The roles stipulated in the model for federal and state government adhere to the provisions of the United States Constitution. More than $50 billion is awarded each year in student financial aid; $35 billion of that comes from the federal treasury so federal programs receive particular attention.
Reducing the multiplicity of federal student aid programs will certainly be challenged by those who fear that their largesse from Washington will diminish. Resistance to the changes proposed in this essay can be expected, including the argument that these programs have worked well over time and simply need more funding to make them even better. This essay presents what it is hoped are compelling reasons for reengineering all student financial aid now. The changes will bring about greater effectiveness, efficiency, and equity.