Chris Farrell, the economics correspondent for NPR’s Marketplace asked us to write about the tradeoff between targeting federal financial aid toward the neediest versus simpler universal programs that seem to do a better job of increasing college going among lower income families. Targeted aid seems fairer, since only financially needy students receive the aid. Targeting also seems more efficient since it costs less than a universal college grant program. The problem is that targeted programs like Pell Grants don’t seem to increase the percentage of college qualified students from poorer families who actually go to college. Universal programs, like Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program, DO have a track record of increasing college attendance.
Should we replace the Pell program with some sort of Passport program that creates a college account for every eligible child? This is the ultimate in simplicity, and it would give the kind of certainty that allows people to plan for the future.
Here is our fuller argument: End FAFSA as we know it
What do you think?