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February 24, 2016

New EPI Report Finds National and State Student Aid Databases Don't Cut it for Public Policy

The Educational Policy Institute released a new report today about the ability of state and national databases to meet the policy needs related to higher education affordability. Written by EPI Senior Research Associate Lee Holcombe, the report finds that although states are establishing ambitious higher education participation and success targets against the backdrop of increasing costs to students, their parents, and state budgets, they suffer from an inability to measure progress by lack of suitable data.

Over the past decade, national databases have provided a great service by clearly demonstrating the affordability crisis. They lack, however, the necessary breadth, depth, and timeliness in order to support states in their efforts to meet their higher education goals. Surprisingly, states don’t know what all student actually pay.

Many states have developed detailed student-level data on each type of aid received which provide stakeholders timely and critical understanding of how aid is awarded to an increasingly diverse student body. Unfortunately, states are not collecting the equally important data such as tuition and fees, room and board, and other cost of living expenses necessary to compute how much each student actually has to pay. In order to fully support evidence-based policy to achieve their participation and success targets, especially for traditionally underrepresented students, state data systems should collect student-level itemized charges as well as financial aid.

Download Itemized Charges & Student Aid: Enhancing the Capacity of States to Understand Affordability for all Higher Education Students here.


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The Educational Policy Institute is a Virginia-based research corporation focusing on high-level research and analysis to support the expansion of educational opportunity in K-12, postsecondary education, and the workforce. For more information, please visit