Policy Factsheet

Need-based Grants for Higher Education

Reasons for Policy

  • College tuition prices have grown at rates that have far outpaced the ability of students and their families to pay for college.1
  • Need-based grants can potentially increase the access and choice in higher education for low-income students.1

Policy Components

  • Provide need-based grants for students to attend college

Desired Outcomes

  • Expand and equalize student access to higher education
  • Increase enrollment in higher education among low income and racial/ethnic minority students

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 2: Policies with Consistent Evidence from High-Quality Observational Studies.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

The following summary of achievable results is based on a published review of the scientific evidence.

  • 16% of all full-time students enrolled in college because of the existence of need-based grants.3

  • Between 20%-40% of enrollment of lower-income students, and 13% of middle-income students, is due to need-based grants.3

Community Examples

University System of Ohio, Ohio Board of Regents funds grants for state resident students who attend Ohio colleges.

Baltimore, Maryland, CollegeBound Foundation, a private non-profit program comprised of business and community leaders, awards Baltimore City public school graduates with the Last Dollar Grant.

Links to Policy Examples

Ohio Revised Code (ORC) §§ 3333.12 Instructional grants, 3333.122 College opportunity grant program

Baltimore, Maryland, CollegeBound Foundation Governance Policies

Be sure to check with your state, county, and municipal governments regarding potential existing laws that may impede any new policy development.

Local governments and organizations may check existing state statutes and administrative codes for the authority to implement local policies.


1 Heller, DE (1997). Student price response in higher education: An update to Leslie and Brinkman. The Journal of Higher Education, 68(6), 624-659.

2 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

3 Leslie, LL & Brinkman, PT. (1987). The economic value of higher education. Washington: American Council on Education.