Students who are state residents and have family incomes at or below 70% of the state’s median family income may receive a State Need Grant to pay for the costs of undergraduate tuition. During the 2011–12 academic year, nearly 75,000 students received this grant. In the last 10 years, state spending on this grant program has increased 120% (from $121 million in 2002–03 to $267 million in 2011–12). A sharp increase in the cost of tuition at undergraduate institutions coupled with a growing student population has led to this rise in program expenditures. While the program has historically been able to serve all students who qualify, in recent years, about 30,000 eligible students have been unable to receive a grant.
The 2012 Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to “determine whether the funding for the State Need Grant has been utilized in the most efficient way possible to maximize the enrollment and degree attainment of low-income students.” This report is the first of two detailed analyses on the characteristics and outcomes of State Need Grant students. Descriptive information in this report includes profiles of State Need Grant students, data related to college affordability, enrollment outcomes for State Need Grant students, and a comparison of need-based aid policies in selected states.
Our final report (due December 2013) will evaluate the impact of the State Need Grant program on enrollment and degree completion outcomes, after considering other factors related to student performance.