Notes & Sources

Trends in Student Aid  was authored by Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the Urban Institute; Jennifer Ma, policy research scientist at the College Board; Matea Pender, associate policy research scientist at the College Board; and Meredith Welch, policy research analyst at the College Board.

Contact Information for the Authors:

Trends in Student Aid and its companion report, Trends in College Pricing, are supplemented by a website that makes detailed data available for reference and downloading. The PDF versions of these reports, along with PowerPoint slides of all the graphs, are available on the Web:

Hard copies may be requested by contacting

Tables, graphs and data in this report or excerpts thereof may be reproduced or cited, for noncommercial purposes only, provided that the following attribution is included:

Source: Trends in Student Aid.

© 2016 The College Board.


Carol Whang and Robert Majoros provided critical support for this publication. We also benefited from comments from D’Wayne Bell, Jack Buckley, Jessica Howell, Michael Hurwitz, and Anne Sturtevant. Larry L. Clay at RTI International provided expert graphic design work. The publication would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of many individuals at the College Board, including Jaclyn Bergeron, Chris Hagan, Abby Hexter, Alejandro Leal, Kathryn McGinley, Randy Peery, Jose Rios, Matt Walsh, and Jenny Xie.

We thank all of those who contributed to the data collection for this publication, especially federal and state grant agency contacts, Charlotte Etier of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration (NASFAA), and Mike Solomon of the Illinois Student Aid Commission.

Data Definitions

Federal Aid:

FSEOG. Federal aid amounts include only federal funds allocated for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program. Institutional matching funds required since 1989-90 are reported under institutional grants.

Veterans and Military. Veterans benefits are payments for postsecondary education and training to veterans and their dependents, including the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance program established in 2009-10 and all programs established earlier. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants program began in 2010-11 and provide non-need-based grants for students whose parent or guardian was a member of the Armed Forces who died in Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of performing military service after Sept. 11, 2001. Includes estimates of benefits for active duty military members.

Perkins Loans. Since FY06, no funds have been appropriated for new federal capital contributions. Perkins Loans are funded from past federal and institutional capital contributions as well as collections from borrowers. All Perkins Loans awarded are included as federal loans.

Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. Prior to 1993-94, federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans for students were made by banks and other private lenders and guaranteed by the federal government. From 1994-95 through 2009-10, the guaranteed loan program, known as the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), continued alongside the Federal Direct Loan Program (FDLP), which lends federal funds to students. Beginning in 2010-11, all of the loans are Federal Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans.

Subsidized Loans are need-based student loans for which the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school and during a six-month grace period thereafter. Prior to June 2012, these loans were available to both undergraduate and graduate students, but the Budget Control Act of 2011 eliminated the program for graduate students, whose federal loans are now all unsubsidized or Grad PLUS loans. Interest accrues on Unsubsidized Loans from the time they are disbursed.

Tax Benefits. Data on education tax credits are authors’ estimates based on IRS data on the volume of Hope, Lifetime Learning, and American Opportunity credits for tax years 1998 and later. A portion of nonrefundable dollars claimed on nontaxable returns is excluded to account for credits that do not reduce tax liability. Tax deductions are based on IRS Statistics of Income Table 1.4, with associated savings estimated by the authors based on the marginal tax rates applied to the taxable income of the taxpayers in each income bracket claiming the deduction on taxable returns. Calendar year amounts are split between the two associated academic years.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Students: Enrollment numbers are based on a federal formula that counts each part-time student as equivalent to one-third of a full-time student.

Graduate and Undergraduate Aid: The breakdown of aid between undergraduate and graduate students is estimated based on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) when not available from other sources.

Inflation Adjustment: The Consumer Price Index for all urban dwellers (CPI-U) is used to adjust for inflation. We use the CPI-U in July of the year in which the academic year begins. See for changes in the CPI-U over time.

Loan Totals: Nonfederal loans from private lenders, states, and institutions are included in Table 1 and several other figures and tables as an important source of funding for students, but are not considered financial aid because they provide no subsidy to students.


Campus-Based Aid (FWS, Perkins, and FSEOG), Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, and ACG/SMART Grants: U.S. Department of Education, Annual Federal Program Data Books.

Education Tax Benefits: Income Tax Returns, All Returns, Tables 1.3, 1.4, 2, and 3.3.

Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Student Loans: 2009-10 and prior: unpublished data provided by the U.S. Department of Education staff; 2010-11 and after: Federal Student Aid Data Center, Title IV Program Volume Reports. Because the Federal Student Aid Data Center will continue to update the loan volume after each academic year ends, we adjusted the 2015-16 data (obtained in July 2016) using the percentage change between July 2015 and July 2016 for the 2014-15 loan volume.

Institutional Grants: IPEDS finance survey; estimated for 2014-15 and 2015-16. Estimated figures represent best approximations and are updated each year as additional information becomes available.

Nonfederal Loans: Estimates for 2011-12 through 2015-16 are based on data provided by the Consumer Bankers Association, MeasureOne, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Earlier data are based on information provided by lenders supplemented by data from annual reports and from NPSAS 2008. Estimates of institutional lending are based on NPSAS 2008 and 2012, as well as a survey of institutions conducted for the College Board by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). Data on loans from states are based on information collected from staff of state-sponsored private loan programs or state grant agencies, in addition to NASSGAP.

Pell Grant Program: 2014-15 and prior: Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report; 2015-16: Federal Student Aid Data Center, Title IV Program Volume Reports.

Private and Employer Grants: Estimates are based on data included in NPSAS and on National Scholarship Providers Association surveys of major private student grant providers, supplemented by information from annual reports of selected scholarship providers, data from institutional financial aid offices, and the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges.

State Grant Programs: 20th through 46th Annual Survey Reports of the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) for 1988-89 to 2014-15 and estimated for 2015-16.

Veterans Benefits: Benefits Program series (annual publication for each fiscal year), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Budget and Finance.