In response to goals of expanding access as well as public pressure to leverage substantial endowment resources toward increasing affordability, numerous elite colleges have enacted policies aimed at improving access and affordability by replacing student loans with grants in financial aid packages. No-loan policies, however, differ in the extent to which they expand affordability: Some policies offer a universal discount by replacing loans with grants for all aid-eligible students, while others offer narrowly targeted discounts to students based on income, Pell Grant eligibility status, or another means-tested threshold. We leveraged newly available Equality of Opportunity Project Mobility Report Card data and a difference-in-differences design using unweighted and weighted comparison groups to examine the relationship between adoption of universal and targeted no-loan policies and economic diversity at elite colleges. We found that colleges offering universal discounts experienced increased enrollment among middle-class students. Our study indicates universal no-loan policies represent one strategy to increase access and affordability for the middle-class in the elite reaches of higher education. The study also, however, raises questions about the policies’ effectiveness in addressing access for low-income students and efficiency in targeting aid.
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