Need-Based Aid Complements School Scholarships, Helps Fill Financial Holes for College Students

The University of Georgia is embarking on a campaign it calls Commit to Georgia. In part, the campaign raises money for need-based scholarships that help students from low-income backgrounds, featuring the slogan “blaze paths to futures that otherwise might be unattainable.”

Donors join with schools to support students working to reach their goals. The federal government contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in need-based aid to Georgia students through the Pell Grant. Georgia students and families collectively pay billions in tuition and fees and borrow billions more. Now Georgia can seize an opportunity to join individual schools, the federal government and 49 states in funding its first broad need-based scholarships.

But don’t fundraising campaigns prove that schools can raise enough money for need-based scholarships on their own? School scholarships are valuable, but most schools lack the resources or fundraising ability to fill financial gaps for all their students. The University System of Georgia serves more than 320,000 students, and about a third deal with unmet financial need. In the 2016-2017 school year:

  • Less than 1 percent of students received school need-based grants or scholarships in 23 of 28 schools in the university system
  • Twelve schools did not award a need-based grant or scholarship
  • Only three schools awarded more than $600,000 in need-based grants or scholarships

Schools can do more to fundraise for need-based scholarships and many are stepping up. But a state investment in need-based aid would complement these efforts and transform students’ lives at a much broader scale. Need-based scholarships can be especially valuable at smaller, lower-tuition state colleges and universities. These schools often lack the financial resources to award many scholarships yet serve a higher share of students with financial need. Many of these smaller schools are in rural communities and smaller metro areas, where colleges often serve as vital economic engines of good local jobs and future workers.

Georgia needs more people with college degrees and the professional opportunities, higher earnings and thriving businesses made possible through higher education. One of the best ways to increase the number of graduates is to help hardworking students who couldn’t otherwise afford it finish their education.

Read the story of one student who would have benefited from state need-based aid.

Top 10 Georgia Public Colleges with Most Donated Need-Based Grants, 2016-2017

School Name # Students Receiving School Need-Based Grants % Students Receiving School Need-Based Grants $ Amount of School Need-Based Grants
Georgia Institute of Technology 1,507 10% $12,603,705
Georgia State University 2,044 5% $2,984,537
University of Georgia 1,247 4% $2,394,980
Kennesaw State University 247 <1% $583,550
University of North Georgia 120 <1% $405,275
Georgia Southern University 128 <1% $302,970
University of West Georgia 163 2% $223,969
Georgia Gwinnett College 158 1% $136,639
Georgia Southwestern State University 101 4% $136,144
Armstrong State University 62 1% $80,867

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