The Role of State Policy in Promoting College Affordability

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This article considers trends in state policies that determine college affordability, including trends in state general appropriations, institutional tuition and fees, and state student financial aid. Taken together, these trends demonstrate erosion in college affordability. This article also examines one recent federal policy intervention that has shaped state policy for higher education affordability, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). My analysis of ARRA shows that the “maintenance of effort” provision in the law was effective, as there was no drop in state general appropriations for higher education (including federal ARRA funds) following implementation. However, in a related analysis, I show that ARRA is negatively associated with state spending on student financial aid. Collectively, state policy trends and the ARRA analyses underscore the need for improved state policy in promoting college affordability, as an affordable college education is out of reach for an increasing proportion of students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-78
Number of pages23
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • finance
  • higher education
  • state policy


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