Optimizing Financial Aid Allocation to Improve Access and Affordability to Higher Education



Published Dec 18, 2022
Vinhthuy Phan Laura Wright Bridgette Decent


The allocation of merit-based awards and need-based aid is important to both universities and students
who wish to attend the universities. Current approaches tend to consider only institution-centric objectives
(e.g. enrollment, revenue) and neglect student-centric objectives in their formulations of the problem.
There is lack of consideration to the need to improve access and affordability to higher education.
Previously, we contributed a metaheuristic and machine learning approach for optimizing strategies that
allocate merit-based awards and need-based aid. The approach can be used to optimize both institutioncentric
(e.g. enrollment and revenue) and student-centric objectives (affordability and accessibility to
higher education). We now employed an improved version of this approach to explore comprehensively a
recent admission dataset from our university. We showed that current applicants depended very much on
financial sources other than federal and institution aid to attend the university. This potentially created a
financial burden for many of these applicants. We identified seven budget-friendly strategies that promise
to increase access to higher education significantly by more than 100%, while still keeping it affordable
for students and limiting a budget increase to less than 7%. Additionally, we identified a total of 111
strategies, including those that benefit from more aggressive changes in the budget to obtain higher increases
in enrollment, revenue, and/or higher affordability and accessibility for students. This method
may be used by other institutions in ways that best fit their institutional objectives and students’ profiles.

How to Cite

Phan, V., Wright, L., & Decent, B. (2022). Optimizing Financial Aid Allocation to Improve Access and Affordability to Higher Education. Journal of Educational Data Mining, 14(3), 26–51. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7304855
Abstract 280 | PDF Downloads 221



institutional data analytic, financial aid allocation, financial aid optimization, scholarship distribution, enrollment management

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Extended Articles from the EDM 2022 Conference