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Key Points

  • The share of state grant aid that was need-based rose from a low of 71% in 2010-11 to 76% in 2016-17. Between 2016-17 and 2017-18, need-based aid per FTE undergraduate rose 5%, from $634 (in 2017 dollars) to $667; non-need-based aid rose 11%, from $196 to $218 per student.

  • In 2017-18, 27 states considered students’ financial circumstances in allocating at least 95% of their state grant aid. Thirteen states considered students’ financial circumstances when awarding less than half of their state grant aid.

  • In 2017-18, state grant aid per full-time equivalent (FTE) undergraduate student ranged from under $200 in nine states to over $1,000 in 12 states.

  • South Carolina, with the highest grant aid per FTE undergraduate student, considered the financial circumstances of recipients for only 17% of state grant funds in 2017-18. Georgia, the second most generous state, allocates its grant funds without regard to students’ financial circumstances. (Figure 23B)

  • Overall, state grant expenditures constituted 14% of total state support for higher education in 2017-18. Thirteen states devoted less than 5% of their higher education funding to grant aid for students; ten states directed at least 20% of their funding to individual students rather than to institutions.

Figure 23A: Need-Based and Non-Need-Based State Grants per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Undergraduate Student in 2017 Dollars, 1977-78 to 2017-18

NOTES: Percentages displayed represent shares of total undergraduate state grant aid that was based on students’ financial circumstances.

SOURCES: National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) Annual Survey, 1977-78 to 2017-18, Tables 1 and 12.

Figure 23B: Need-Based State Grant Aid as a Percentage of Total Undergraduate State Grant Aid by State, 2017-18

NOTES: Need-based aid includes any grants for which financial circumstances contribute to eligibility. Non-need-based aid refers to grants for which financial circumstances have no influence on eligibility. New Hampshire did not award state grant aid to undergraduate students in 2017-18.

SOURCES: NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2017-18, Table 1.

Figure 24A: State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Undergraduate Student, 2017-18

NOTES: Full-time equivalent students include both state residents and out-of-state students. States do not award grant aid to nonresidents. Most states do not award state grant aid to their residents who attend colleges outside the state.

SOURCES: NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2017-18, Tables 1 and 12; calculations by the authors.

Figure 24B: State Grant Expenditures as a Percentage of Total State Support for Higher Education by State, 2017-18

NOTES: State grant expenditures include funding for both undergraduate and graduate students.

SOURCES: NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2017-18, Table 14.

Also Important

  • Total spending on state grant aid increased from $9.3 billion (in 2017 dollars) in 2007-08 to $10.0 billion in 2012-13 and to $11.7 billion in 2017-18. (NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2007-08, 2012-13, and 2017-18)
  • In 2017-18, four states accounted for 41% of all state grant aid dollars, with California accounting for 18% of the total.
  • Some state-funded grant aid is in the form of “tuition set-aside” programs through which a portion of tuition revenues at public institutions—or of increases in tuition—is dedicated to grant aid. Some of these funds are included in reported state grant aid, but others are not. Tuition remission dollars, not always reported as state grant aid, are sizable in several states.