The department of higher education shall review programs of financial aid for students attending public institutions of higher education in the commonwealth, including grants, tuition waivers and loan programs. Based on the review, the department shall make recommendations, including legislation, for a comprehensive redesign and reform of the financial aid system to increase student access to higher education, improve affordability of higher education for students and families, and reduce opportunity and achievement gaps among students, particularly for students of color and disadvantaged populations.
The goals of the financial aid redesign and reform shall include:
(1) consolidating multiple overlapping assistance programs to improve efficiency and reduce duplication;
(2) reducing the burden of the application process and improving transparency, predictability and the ease of navigation for students and their families applying for and renewing financial assistance;
(3) lessening administrative costs, including the costs of oversight; and
(4) strengthening the ability of the general court to appropriately monitor, oversee and appropriate funds provided for student financial assistance.
In preparing its recommendations, the department shall consult with institutional financial aid officers, the office of student financial assistance and its financial aid advisory committee, groups representing students at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges, students and parents who navigate and use state financial aid, and other stakeholders. The department shall review the design of financial aid programs in other states and recommendations of experts. The department shall also solicit information from the chairs and vice chairs of the committee on higher education.
Before releasing its recommendations, the department shall hold an open public listening session to receive public input.
The department shall file its findings, recommendations and accompanying legislation, if any, with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate and the joint committee on higher education not later than December 31, 2023.
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