Serving statewide coordinating and governing boards in developing and sustaining excellent systems of higher education.
Changing Direction:
Integrating Higher Education Financial Aid
and Financing Policy


During the past quarter century, few issues in higher education have captured and held the attention of state policymakers and higher education leaders as financing and financial aid. Year after year, the policymaking and education communities struggle with questions of how to meet growing needs through state allocations, how best to ensure shared and equitable responsibility for paying for higher education, and how best to use subsidies, such as financial aid, to expand access and opportunity.

Changing Direction examines how to structure financial aid and financing policies and practices to maximize participation, access, and success for all students. This initiative, sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, reflects the combined innovation and cooperation of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), the American Council on Education (ACE) and SHEEO.

Several indicators suggest that an initiative targeting financial aid and financing in higher education is not only timely, but also critical. These include:

  • Demographic changes, particularly among college-age youth
  • Projected growth in higher education enrollments, concentrated in certain states
  • Slowing state economies
  • Increasing turnover among state policymakers, partially resulting from term limits

The central goal of "Changing Direction" is to achieve an integrated state policymaking framework and process so that policies related to tuition, financial aid, and appropriations are coordinated, occur in an environment of collaboration, and support state goals of higher education. Five states (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, and Oregon) were recently selected to participate in the initial phase of the project. They will explore and seek to implement innovative ways of improving state-level policymaking and decision-making strategies for financing higher education.

Through these efforts, Changing Direction strives to equip policymakers and higher education leaders with the ability to address issues concerning the structuring of financing and financial aid more effectively, and to promote linkages among state, federal and private-sector institutional policies and programs, along with regional and national collaboration.

Policies in Sync: Appropriations, Tuition, and Financial Aid for Higher Education
Published by WICHE, this compilation of selected papers, written as part of the Changing Direction project sponsored by the Lumina Foundation, addresses the integration of financial aid and financing policies. Paul Lingenfelter, Hans L'Orange, Christopher Rasmussen, and Richard A. Voorhees include a paper which examines what states need to know in order to design and implement policies related to appropriations, tuition, and student financial assistance from the data perspective, entitled "Information Sources for Answering Key Financing and Financial Aid Policy Questions: Current Practice and Future Possibilities."

More papers can be found on WICHE's project page.