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Federal assistance helps students and families pay for postsecondary education through several policy tools--grant and loan programs authorized by title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and more recently enacted tax preferences. In fiscal year 2004, about $14 billion in grants and $56 billion in loans were made under title IV while estimated outlay equivalents for postsecondary tax preferences amounted to $10 billion. In light of the relative newness and financial significance of tax preferences, this report examines (1) how title IV assistance compares to that provided through the tax code, (2) the extent to which tax filers effectively use postsecondary tax preferences, and (3) what is known about the effectiveness of federal assistance.

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