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Data/Research: Financial Aid

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Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2020 — The most trusted source of information on college costs and federal, state and institutional student aid, these annual reports contain information on average tuition and fees, net prices and debt burdens.

NASFAA, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, has a comprehensive glossary of terms English-Spanish Glossary of Student Financial Aid and Postsecondary Education, 6th Edition, and an abridged version.

NASSGAP, the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, has an annual survey of state financial aid.

Net Price Calculator Center — Federal law requires colleges to post “net price calculators” on their websites so families can estimate their costs after aid. This federal site lets you search for an institution’s calculator.

Federal Student Loan Portfolio | Federal Student Aid — The best source of information on the federal student loan portfolio — both Direct Loans and federally-guaranteed (FFEL) loans. Among other things, it shows how many loans are in income-driven repayment, deferment or forbearance, and how many are delinquent or in default. There are lots of tabs to navigate, but it’s worth the dive.

FAFSA Tracker — Form Your Future — Each year, thousands of families who would qualify for federal student aid fail to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This site tracks FAFSA completion rates, by state and by certain demographic factors.

Education Credits AOTC LLC | Internal Revenue Service — Explains the different tax credits.

Archived — Federal Student Aid Policy: A History and an Assessment — A detailed overview of the first 50 years of the federal student aid programs, up to the mid-90’s.

Report — SHEF ( — Annual report on state and local spending on higher ed.

NACUBO Tuition Discounting Study — Annual survey that measures how much colleges are discounting their tuition and fees through institutional aid. NACUBO issues a press release with highlights, but you may need to request the full report.

Campaign for Free College — Lots of information about state and local college “Promise programs,” which make college tuition free (but generally not cost-free).

Race and Debt

The research on race and debt is clear: Black students and their families are disproportionately burdened by student loans. Black Americans account for 15.7 percent of the population and 23.3 percent of outstanding student debt.

Compared to their white peers, Black students are more likely to borrow, to borrow more and to default on their debt. Black students who are parents borrow the most of all, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

These disparities can be traced to decades of housing and employment discrimination that have made it difficult for Black families to accumulate wealth. Today, the median white household has a net worth ten times the wealth of the median Black household.

Though student loans have made college possible for low-wealth families, they have also deepened the racial wealth divide. That’s why some proponents of student loan forgiveness consider it a racial justice imperative.

But the research shows that while debt relief would lift many families with negative net worth into positive territory, it would have a limited impact on the racial wealth gap, and would deliver the biggest benefit to wealthier households.

Updated May 2021.