Total state financial aid increased by 4.5% in 2019-2020

Total state financial aid continued to rise in the 2019-2020 academic year, just before state budgets and family incomes were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest report from the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.

States awarded about $14.8 billion in financial aid during the 2019-2020 academic year, according to the NASSGAP report. This total reflects a nominal increase of 4.5% from the $14.1 billion in financial aid awarded in the 2018-19 academic year, an increase of 2.6% in constant dollars adjusted for of inflation.

Most of this total – 87% – was distributed to students via scholarships, which do not need to be repaid. States distributed 4.2 million grants in the 2019-2020 academic year, totaling $12.9 billion in grants, according to the report. States provided an additional $1.8 billion in unsubsidized aid, about half of which came in the form of tuition waivers. Loans, loan assumptions, conditional grants and work-study made up the rest of that total.

Need-based scholarship aid for undergraduates increased by $400 million in the 2019-2020 academic year, to $9.3 billion.

“This year has been a relatively large increase,” said Frank Ballmann, director of federal relations at NASSGAP. “I can’t get too excited because two years ago we had our biggest increase in the last decade, but it’s a healthy, multi-state increase.”

Eight states (California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington) awarded more than two-thirds of total national need-based grants in the 2019-2020 academic year, amounting to 6.3 billion among them. . California led the pack, handing out $2.4 billion in need-based grants that year.

Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia provided the most grants per capita, the report said. Meanwhile, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Tennessee provided the highest number of undergraduate scholarships relative to full-time undergraduate enrollment.

Table showing total aid granted, by state (in millions of dollars) during the 2019-2020 academic year / National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs

State financial aid totals fluctuate for all kinds of reasons, Ballmann said. Some states have larger populations, and therefore more students who need financial aid. Other states see the opposite – demographic shifts have left them with fewer students and, therefore, smaller financial aid budgets. For many states, investing in student financial aid is a political and economic priority.

“These kind of states have invested heavily in … goals like ‘X% of adults have degrees or certificates by a certain age or a certain year,'” Ballmann said. “These states are realizing that the way to move the needle is to invest in need-based grants, because that’s where you get the incremental increases in the number of students attending and hopefully graduate from college.”

Katie Harrison, president of NASSGAP, echoed Ballmann’s thoughts in a statement.

“By increasing their investments in student assistance programs, states are demonstrating their commitment to supporting post-secondary students and their families, and to meeting current and future workforce needs,” he said. she writes.

The COVID-19 pandemic – which has had a significant impact on state budgets and increased the financial needs of many students and families – had no effect on the total state aid for the academic year. 2019-20, Ballmann said. For the most part, the financial aid for this year was granted before the start of the pandemic in the United States in March 2020.

Next year’s totals could reveal how much the pandemic has affected state financial assistance programs and whether US bailout funds have supported those programs.

“I don’t know of any state that has scaled back programs” during the pandemic, Ballmann said. “It will be interesting to see if the programs become more generous.”

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