As the presidential candidates discuss the affordability of higher education for all and hold out promises of free community-college courses, at the state level more financial aid is already being funneled to students in need. Municipalities are also rolling out programs.
The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs found that state-funded aid is up about 6% for the 2014-15 academic year (the most recent year for which it has collected data), according to an Inside Higher Ed report. Grants, which don’t require repayment, made up about 85% of the $12.4 billion in financial aid awarded.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti is working on a plan to provide one year of free classes—two years, if he can secure enough donations—at any of the Los Angeles Community College District campuses to students who graduate from an L.A. public high school, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The L.A. College Promise is intended to help a specific segment of the student body: those who would have to work full-time in order to afford to attend school part-time. Many of these students come from families who earn just enough to disqualify them from other aid programs.
The grants would enable these students to cut back on working hours and enroll on a full-time basis, allowing them to earn a degree or certificate more quickly. Students would also have to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average to receive grant money.