January 6, 2017
KnowledgeWorks would like to partner with the Trump Administration to identify strategies that will make the federal financial aid system more flexible.

Our Federal Financial Aid System Needs to Reflect the Realities of Today’s Postsecondary Learner

As a team we have been diving into our transition memo, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration, to explore our four sets of recommendations designed to outline the federal role in scaling personalized learning. When examining personalized learning policy three major themes emerge.

  1. More times than not it is about less policy rather than more policy.
  2. Flexibility is a key component in advancing personalized learning and that flexibility should be pushed down to the level closest to the students and teachers (e.g. to the district and school level).
  3. Some of the new policy is really about modernizing old policies.

The incoming Administration should modernize the federal financial aid system to reflect the realities of today’s postsecondary learner. The current system distributes aid to students based on the number of hours they attend class or the number of credit hours in which they are enrolled. Traditional 12 credit-a-semester, full-time enrollment in postsecondary education is no longer the norm as individuals increasingly seek access to postsecondary opportunities as early as middle or high school, while working and raising a family, or later in life as part of a career change. We recommend an overhaul of the Federal financial aid system to ensure it is more flexible, better able to address changing career requirements (for an emerging and incumbent workforce), and reflective of the nation’s increasing interest in personalized education.

A federal strategy to modernize the federal financial aid system should begin with an effort to scale the following concepts through implementation of the Higher Education Act. The new Administration will need to identify the right policy approach for bringing these to scale to ensure that students, institutions, and providers get the best result from the federal investment.

  • Dual Enrollment—Low-income high school students enrolled in postsecondary coursework through a dual enrollment or early college high school program should be able to earn Federal Pell Grants upon completion of postsecondary credit.
  • Competency Education—Students should be able to access Title IV financial aid for enrollment in IHEs with a self-paced competency education
  • Innovative Education Model—Students should be able to access Title IV financial aid for enrollment in postsecondary institutions that are partnering with non-traditional providers to deliver an innovative educational program.

KnowledgeWorks would like to partner with the incoming Trump Administration to identify strategies that will make the federal financial aid system more flexible while ensuring necessary protections against mismanagement and abuse. As we innovate our K-12 educational system, we must also examine the transition spaces into higher education and how the system supports all learners by personalizing supports and options. This isn’t just an educational recommendation because making the financial aid system nimbler directly impacts the viability of our workforce and our economy.

KnowledgeWorks' transition memo to the new Presidential Administration, "Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration."In our transition memo to the new Presidential Administration, Embracing the Opportunity: Recommendations for Scaling Personalized Learning Under a New Presidential Administration, we offer a set of recommendations for leveraging national momentum to create a flexible, customized education system where every learner succeeds. Read the complete memo to learn more.

Matt Williams

Written by: Matt Williams

Matt Williams is Vice President of National Advocacy and Partnerships for KnowledgeWorks Foundation. In this role, he is responsible for directing both federal and state relations on behalf of the Foundation. Matt assists the various divisions, subsidiaries, and major investments of KnowledgeWorks in building and maintaining relationships to advance their initiatives and also assists in advancing policy priorities for the Foundation.

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