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[Op-Ed] Inside Higher Ed: Open the Title IV Door

Title IV Federal Student Aid money for college students
StraighterLine Chairman & Founder Burck Smith writes in an Inside Higher Ed op-ed how the federal financial aid system is locking students out of more affordable learning options.

Student debt forgiveness—if ultimately allowed by the Supreme Court to go into effect—will not be enough to address the crisis of college affordability.

For too many learners, higher education is just too costly—and risky—of an investment. Any amount of debt cancellation will mean very little without structural reforms that ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and saddle more students with debt in the future. And that includes reimagining the bedrock law of our federal financial aid system: Title IV.

The current system is meant to support learners with the most financial hardship, but the restrictions on where Title IV dollars can be used often steer learners from low-income backgrounds toward the most expensive postsecondary options. Title IV is effectively a voucher, but one that can only be spent at traditional colleges, despite an increasing variety of more affordable alternatives. It’s not unlike requiring food stamp recipients to only buy food at high-end organic markets.

Read Smith's op-ed in its entirety, published in Inside Higher Ed on December 6, 2022.