Press Release/Statement | November 4, 2021

Report Finds Michigan’s Financial Aid Programs are Unnecessarily Complex

(Lansing, MI) – Michigan’s financial aid system is complicated. The state has eight different programs that serve different populations, have different goals, and operate with different rules. The misalignment between programs is costly for students and colleges.

Centering Students in Michigan’s Financial Aid Programs, a primer and equity analysis released jointly by The Institute for College Access & Success and The Century Foundation, examines the current landscape of existing financial aid in the state – an unnecessarily complex system of financial aid programs that aren’t aligned with each other or with the federal Pell grant – and offers policy recommendations for improving the design of financial aid in Michigan.

“To ensure that Michigan’s workforce has the skills needed for the modern economy, the state’s leaders should build a financial aid system that helps families cover college costs,” said report co-author and TICAS program associate Manon Steel. “However, disjointed program designs, maintenance restrictions, and administrative barriers diminish the effectiveness of Michigan’s eight state financial aid programs in reaching this vital goal.”

The report analyzes how these programs place unnecessary hurdles between students and the aid they need in ways that are likely to compound inequities in college access by race and income, and applies a student-centered, equity framework to each of Michigan’s financial aid programs that assesses key aspects of each program across the lifespan of the grant.

“Overly complex and inadequate financial aid most acutely affects low-income students, students of color, and adult students, contributing to persistent completion gaps in Michigan, as well as nationally,” said Denise Smith, report co-author and senior fellow at The Century Foundation. “Policymakers working to improve degree attainment, through both changes to existing programs and new investments, should consider the degree to which state financial aid programs sufficiently address college costs and other student needs in Michigan, as well as whether financial aid in the state is simple to understand and access for students and families.”

At a time when college enrollment is down among students from low-income backgrounds, Michigan policymakers could take some relatively simple, low-cost steps to streamline the system and make it easier to obtain aid. Centering Students in Michigan’s Financial Aid Programs serves as a primer on the state’s financial aid programs and a policy blueprint for streamlined and equitable aid for Michigan’s future. Changes are needed to make the state’s financial aid policy work better for students and families, and this report offers a starting point for these conversations.


The Institute for College Access & Success is a trusted source of research, design, and advocacy for student-centered public policies that promote affordability, accountability, and equity in higher education. For more information see or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. 

The Century Foundation (TCF) is a progressive, independent think tank that conducts research, develops solutions, and drives policy change to make people’s lives better. We pursue economic, racial, and gender equity in education, health care, and work, and promote U.S. foreign policy that fosters international cooperation, peace, and security. TCF is based in New York, with an office in Washington, D.C. Follow the organization on Twitter at @TCFdotorg and learn more at