Massachusetts Officials Seek Improved Financial Aid System

With over 50 state financial aid programs accessible to college students, officials in public higher education are embarking on a mission to streamline these offerings by 2026.

The Department of Higher Education is looking at identifying gaps in financial support as they contemplate revamping the mix of tuition reimbursement, grants, loan forgiveness, and tax programs, mentioned Michael Dannenberg, deputy commissioner of policy. The goal of the overhaul is to enhance access to education, improve affordability, and establish reliable and predictable aid delivery.

“Part of our analysis will focus on the ultimate unmet need or requirement of students, whether in-state or out-of-state, and whether they currently receive state financial aid programs or not,” highlighted Dannenberg during a virtual Board of Higher Education meeting on Tuesday. “Our aim is to simplify, highlight, and prioritize these programs for families in need and to enhance socioeconomic mobility.”

Dannenberg emphasized that the creation of a “more coherent financial aid system” would also center on ensuring that students successfully finish their degrees and certificates.

Earlier this year, the Department of Higher Education introduced the Massachusetts Application for State Financial Aid (MASFA), a platform designed to mirror the federal FAFSA form, allowing undocumented students to access millions of dollars available in state aid programs.

According to a Department of Higher Education spokesperson, nearly 400 MASFA applications have been submitted or are in progress for the 2023-2024 academic year, with an additional 230 applications already in the pipeline for the upcoming academic year.

Dannenberg revealed that at least 34 state financial aid programs cater to less than 10,000 students, with over 20 programs reaching less than 2,000 recipients. Moreover, more than two dozen state financial aid programs are not tied to economic need, and approximately 16 programs have a median award value below $2,000.

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