TICAS' Accomplishments

The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) is an independent, nonprofit research and policy organization dedicated to increasing college access, affordability and success through improvements in student financial aid policies, both nationally and in California. Since 2005, our Project on Student Debt has worked to reduce the burden of student loan debt and increase public understanding of rising debt and its implications for families, the economy, and society.

TICAS works with a broad range of partners to advance practical, evidence-based solutions, and we serve as an expert resource to the media, policymakers, and the public on issues ranging from the financial aid application process to student loan repayment. Our accomplishments include: championing changes that have made it much easier to apply for federal student aid; developing the model policy that resulted in the creation of income-driven repayment plans for federal student loans; leading a national coalition that secured greater regulation of federally funded career education programs; and leading analysis and advocacy in California that has increased college accountability and state need-based grant aid by millions of dollars annually.

Rising Student Debt: Building Awareness, Reducing the Burden

  • Seven out of every 10 bachelor's degree recipients now graduate with student loans, and their average debt is $30,100. Our annual report on the debt of new graduates sheds needed light on student borrowing patterns nationally, in each state, and at more than 1,000 individual colleges. The report's findings and recommendations for reducing the burden of student debt are cited in thousands of news stories every year.

  • We developed the policy framework and led the campaign that resulted in the Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR), the first widely available income-driven repayment plan for federal student loans. More than six million borrowers now use IBR and the related plans that followed, which cap loan payments at manageable percentage of income—as little as $0 when earnings are very low—and discharge any remaining debt after a maximum of 25 years of payments.

  • College-InSight.org (rated as one of the 10 best college websites by U.S. News & World Report) makes it easy for both consumers and experts to compare individual college debt levels, completion rates, and other key indicators of student success, affordability, and diversity.

Improving Access to Available Aid

  • Each year, millions of students and parents electronically transfer their own tax information directly into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), automatically answering up to 20 high-stakes financial questions. This process has been available to FAFSA applicants since 2010. And since 2016, students have been able to file the FAFSA before college applications are typically due. TICAS led the charge for these major simplifications of the FAFSA process, making it much less time-consuming and error-prone for millions of students and families.

  • Research shows the a majority of students rule out colleges based on "sticker price" without considering financial aid, which can dramatically lower the cost. Net Price Calculators can help students look past "sticker price" and learn which schools they may be able to afford. After our research showed that many of these calculators are difficult to find, use, and compare, the Education Department addressed several issues we identified. Bipartisan House and Senate bills were introduced with more improvements based on our findings, and bipartisan legislation including many of these changes passed the full House in both 2014 and 2016.

  • Community colleges enroll the majority of low-income students, and California is home to more than 1 in 5 community college students. College policies and practices - from setting office hours, to verifying aid eligibility, to deciding whether to offer federal loans - affect whether students get the aid they need to succeed. Our research identifies both promising and problematic approaches to financial aid at community colleges.

Preserving and Strengthening Need-Based Grants

  • TICAS helps lead a national coalition that raises awareness of the federal Pell Grant's importance for student access and success. Pell Grants help over seven and a half million students - most with incomes under $40,000 - get to and through college each year. Our nonpartisan analyses educate the higher education community, the press, and policymakers about the importance of preserving and strengthening these need-based grants.

  • In California, our research, analysis, and statewide coalition focus on how Cal Grants can better serve the neediest students and invest in student success. The results include $100 million more annually in need-based grant aid for the state's lowest income students, and higher standards for colleges. Since 2012, colleges where at least 40% of students borrow must have a student loan default rate under 15.5% and a graduation rate over 30% to participate in the Cal Grant program.

Protecting Students, Borrowers, and Taxpayers

  • As detailed in invited testimony before federal and California legislators, we have found that low-income and minority students at for-profit colleges are more likely to borrow, borrow more, and default than their peers at other types of schools. Working with civil rights, consumer, veterans, and college access groups, we have led the way in calling for greater accountability and protecting both students and taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse.

  • We lead a broad national coalition to raise awareness of risky private education loans and the need for stronger consumer protections. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made these loans a major focus: developing consumer tools, taking borrower complaints, and investigating questionable lender practices.

  • Our analysis and recommendations led to a California requirement that colleges report their graduates' average debt, and counsel students seeking private loans if they have not already maxed out on available federal loans and aid.

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