Trends in Student Aid

Trends in Student Aid CoverTrends in Student Aid, an annual College Board publication since 1983, is a compendium of detailed, up-to-date information on the funding that is available to help students pay for college. This report documents grant aid from federal and state governments, colleges and universities, employers, and other private sources, as well as loans, tax benefits, and Federal Work-Study Assistance. It examines changes in funding levels over time, reports on the distribution of aid across students with different incomes and attending different types of institutions, and tracks the debt students incur as they pursue their educational opportunities.

Report findings are organized into the following categories:

Total Aid

Student financial aid includes grants, federal loans, work-study and tax benefits. Federal and state governments, colleges and universities, employers and other private entities provide financial aid to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Federal Aid

The federal government provides grant aid, most of which is based on students' financial circumstances. It also provides education loans for students and parents and work-study funds that help to pay the wages of some student workers. Tax credits and deductions also subsidize students and families paying for college.


From the student's perspective, grant aid is the most desirable form of financial aid. It is awarded before the tuition bill has to be paid and does not have to be repaid. The federal government and colleges and universities are the largest sources of grant aid, but states and employers and other private entities also provide significant amounts of grant aid.


The federal government provides education loans to both students and parents. These loans are now funded directly by the government, but until July 2010 some were funded by private lenders and guaranteed by the federal government. Federal loans carry fixed interest rates and a variety of repayment protections, but this is not the case for the nonfederal loans on which some students rely. Student loans make college possible for many students, but rising education debt levels are a growing concern.

Education Tax Benefits and College Savings Plans

The federal government provides education tax credits and deductions that reduce the tax bills of parents and students paying for postsecondary education. It also exempts from taxation the earnings on specified savings vehicles earmarked for paying for college.

Inflation Adjustment

The Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) is used to adjust for inflation. We provide much of our data in constant dollars, adjusting values for changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).