Arizona Board of Regents report: Financial aid essential for students

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Arizona Board of Regents report: Financial aid essential for students

February 2, 2021

Financial aid is instrumental to ensure higher education at Arizona’s public universities remains accessible to students throughout Arizona. The Arizona Board of Regents Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Aid Report details systemwide financial aid that has increased 28 percent from $2.4 billion to $3.1 billion since 2016, outpacing enrollment growth of 20 percent over the same period.

More students are relying on financial aid at Arizona’s public universities, yet default rates for students at the universities are below the national average and remain the lowest among all Arizona higher education institutions.

Furthermore, debt upon graduation for students in Arizona with financial aid loans remains low compared to other public universities. Concerted efforts by the board and the universities have led to savings for students as well as increased tuition predictability and transparency.

During presentations to the Arizona Board of Regents Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment Committee, enrollment leaders from the universities provided overviews of financial aid including challenges the pandemic has placed on students and families as indicated by increased FAFSA applications and some families with dramatically lower incomes while the universities work to meet financial aid need for students and ensure the institutions remain financially solvent.

“Our universities provide millions in institutional aid each year to students, yet many students struggle financially, especially as the pandemic continues,” said Arizona Board of Regents Chair Larry E. Penley. “We are working to enact in Arizona a promise program scholarship that would provide more opportunity to qualified students, graduate more students from college and help ensure our state remains competitive and can meet the workforce needs of the New Economy.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • Only 11 states in the union have lower rates of student loan debt than Arizona. University graduates are also more likely to be employed and have stronger earning power five years after graduation – even after accounting for student loan repayments.
  • Since 2016, systemwide financial aid from all sources has increased 28 percent from $2.4 billion to $3.1 billion, outpacing enrollment growth of 20 percent over the same period.
  • The number of Pell-Grant eligible students attending Arizona’s public universities continues to rise with enrollment growth, while the percentage of the national student population that is Pell eligible has declined as the number of students entering higher education has decreased.
  • Average need awards for undergraduates continue to increase. Since 2016, these are up 16 percent.
  • Forty-four percent of Arizona State University, 44 percent of Northern Arizona University and 52 percent of University of Arizona undergraduate students graduate with no debt.
  • In 2020, Arizona’s public universities collectively provided $981.2 million in institutional gift aid. Since 2016, total institutional gift aid has increased $358.9 million or 58 percent.

The Financial Aid Report provides crucial data for the board as it continues to address higher education access and affordability issues. Financial aid information informs the board’s priority to increase educational attainment in Arizona as jobs increasingly demand advanced skills requiring education past high school.

Benefits of higher education for students and the state are vast. Students with college degrees earn higher wages on average, enjoy higher quality of life and have better job prospects than peers with less education.

College graduates who take home more wages, have better financial security and the skills for New Economy jobs are important drivers of Arizona’s economy. Greater educational attainment also leads to an increased tax base for the state.

“It is imperative to increase educational attainment in Arizona. Increasing need-based aid for eligible students provides an opportunity to alter our current trajectory to one of continued success for the state,” said ABOR executive director John Arnold.

The Arizona Board of Regents Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Aid Report, filed in compliance with A.R.S. §15-1650, reflects data from Arizona’s public universities – Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona. Supplementary information is from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Census Bureau 2019 Community Survey and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |
Julie Newberg, 602-229-2534 |