ACE Report Compares Higher Ed Funding Policies around the World
December 16, 2019

Free college has become a popular debate topic in the United States as presidential candidates lay out their plans for higher education. But is it the most effective way to bring the benefits of postsecondary education to those who need it most? A new ACE report examines different national higher education financing policies around the world and how they impact equity and attainment.

The report, titled Student Finance Policies Worldwide: Leveraging Funding for Attainment and Equity in Higher Education, is a product of the Global Attainment and Inclusion Network (GAIN), a global learning community for the exchange of innovative practices shown to increase postsecondary degree attainment. GAIN is coordinated by ACE and funded by a generous grant from the Lumina Foundation.

“Our hope for this report is to provide a frame of reference for policy makers on how to best use limited resources to create positive outcomes for under-served students," said Brad Farnsworth, vice president for global engagement at ACE.

The various funding approaches examined in the report are divided into the following four types, and national case studies are provided for each:

  1. Free tuition
  2. Low tuition fees without loan systems
  3. High tuition fees supported by loan systems
  4. Dual-track policies

The central finding of the report is the importance of targeting under-served student populations. Blanket policies that apply to all students tend to uphold the status quo, while directing funding at disadvantaged students has a higher probability of creating a positive impact. However, no one-size-fits-all financial policy exists and national contexts must also be taken into account.

The paper is authored by Lucia Brajkovic, education specialist at the World Bank; and Ariane de Gayardon, research associate at the Centre for Global Higher Education. Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates and a global expert on access, provides the foreword.

Read the full report here.