State financial aid per student in Massachusetts has been steadily decreasing over the last two decades, according to a new study by the Hildreth Institute, a research and policy advocacy center focused on higher education and social mobility.
The study, released Thursday, analyzed state Department of Higher Education data to examine how much state financial aid was available to Massachusetts students from 2001 to 2021. It found that the average amount of state aid received by students in Massachusetts now only covers 12 percent of the cost of going to a public college in the state. The majority of students had tens of thousands of dollars in unmet financial need each year. Meanwhile, students at Massachusetts community colleges received half the aid their peers at four-year institutions received, according to the report. Over two decades, the number of students who took out loans to afford community college increased 45 percent, while the number of students who took out loans to attend four-year public universities increased 105 percent.
The report also found that the state has created more than 40 different grants, scholarships and tuition programs, contributing to an increasingly convoluted state financial aid system for students to navigate.
“Many states have updated their funding systems to increase affordability and close achievement gaps, but Massachusetts has lagged,” Bahar Akman Imboden, managing director of the Hildreth Institute and author of the report, said in a press release. “Over the past two decades, students in Massachusetts have seen their access to aid dwindle, with state-funded financial aid being cut by 47 percent. Unfortunately, until there is a plan for significant and long-term investment in state-funded financial aid, the state’s commitment to quality public education will continue to end at grade 12.”