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A new report from EdTrust, a nonprofit college access advocacy organization, identifies 12 eligibility requirements for state financial aid that it says are “formidable barriers to college access for under-resourced students.”

Those include:

  • Restrictions based on program type
  • FAFSA completion requirements
  • Low-income threshold requirements
  • Inclusion of incarcerated individuals
  • Standardized test score requirements

One of the major barriers is the full-time student requirement, which prevents many of the most underserved students from receiving state aid—parents and adults primarily, but also low-income or first-generation students who have to work while in college.

The report compared state financial aid qualifications in 10 states—California, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington—in order to “assess the extent to which these programs prioritize equity and inclusivity.”

It focused on states that offer purely need-based aid versus those that also allot funding to non-need, merit-based state grants and scholarships, which the authors argued can do more to bring well-off, high-achieving students to public institutions than to expand college access in general. Some states, like Louisiana and Tennessee, award far more non-need state scholarships than need-based grants.

Because federal aid has lagged far behind inflation as the cost of college has steadily risen, equitable access to state financial aid, the report argues, is more important than ever to help fill gaps in student need.