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Key Points

  • In 1981-82 and earlier years, virtually all state grant aid was based on students’ financial circumstances. The share that was need-based declined gradually to a low of 71% in 2010-11. From 2013-14 through 2016-17, 76% of state grant aid was need-based.
  • 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 2016-17. Georgia, the second most generous state, allocates its grant funds without regard to students’ financial circumstances. (Figure 23B)

Figure 23A: Need-Based and Non-Need-Based State Grants per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Undergraduate Student in 2016 Dollars, 1976-77 to 2016-17

Need-Based and Non-Need-Based State Grants per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Undergraduate Student in 2016 Dollars, 1976-77 to 2016-17

NOTES: Percentages displayed represent percentages of total undergraduate state grant aid for which students’ financial circumstances were considered.

SOURCES: National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) Annual Survey, 1976-77 to 2016-17, Tables 1 and 12.

Figure 23B: Need-Based State Grant Aid as a Percentage of Total Undergraduate State Grant Aid by State, 2016-17

Need-Based State Grant Aid as a Percentage of Total Undergraduate State Grant Aid by State, 2016-17

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 2016-17.

SOURCES: NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2016-17, Table 1.

Figure 24A: State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

NOTES: Full-time equivalent students include both state residents and out-of-state students. States do not award grant aid to nonresidents.

SOURCES: NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2016-17, 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, 2016-17

State Grant Expenditures as a Percentage of Total State Support for Higher Education by State, 2016-17

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

SOURCES: NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2016-17, Table 14.

Also Important

  • Total spending on state grant aid increased from $9 billion (in 2016 dollars) in 2006-07 to $10 billion in 2011-12, and to $11 billion in 2016-17. (NASSGAP Annual Survey, 2006-07, 2011-12, and 2016-17)
  • In 2016-17, four states provided 42% 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.