State Student Grant Aid

The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) was established to incentivize states to supplement the federal Pell Grant Program with additional need-based grant aid to low-income students. Unfortunately, LEAP has received no new funding since 2011. State actions since then demonstrate how important it is to maintain LEAP and restore program funding.

Currently, two states do not have need-based grant programs, and others struggle to keep them funded. The savings to the federal government in defunding LEAP was only $67 million annually, but the loss of grant aid to needy students is immeasurably higher as states have disinvested from these aid programs.  The National Association of State Student Grant Aid Programs issues an annual report that provides data regarding state-funded expenditures for student financial aid and illustrates the extent of efforts made by the states to assist postsecondary students. 

Before the pandemic, Congress was considering repealing the LEAP authorizing statute as part of the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization process – a step that would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.  With the arrival of the Biden Administration, proposals for Free Public College and free community college continue to be popular policy goals.  Ironically, the free college proposals are structured like (and are often called) “federal-state partnerships, " which follow similar constructs to the now defunded LEAP program  Any federal-state partnership addressing college affordability should include students at private, nonprofit colleges as part of the solution.

NAICU supports S. 2054, the Partnership for Affordability and Student Success (PASS) Act, introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI).  The PASS Act would expand LEAP to increase state need-based grant aid.


The Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) is a federal-state initiative for need-based grant aid. To participate, states must match federal funding at least dollar-for-dollar, and demonstrate a “maintenance-of-effort” for need-based student aid equal to their average funding over the prior three years. The program serves students at both public and private institutions. Unfortunately, the program has not been funded since 2011.


Originally known as the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG), LEAP was created in 1972, as a complement to the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (BEOG) and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). (The BEOG later became known as the Pell Grant.)

These three programs form an important partnership in helping low-income students pay for college: the federal government through Pell; state governments through LEAP; and institutions through SEOG.

LEAP was intended to provide incentive funds to encourage states to set up and maintain need-based grant aid programs for their students, rather than providing only merit-based aid.

The program became a target for elimination for budget cutting purposes in the early 1990s, but its funding survived until 2011.

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What You Can Do

  • Contact your elected officials to emphasize the importance of maintaining an incentive program to encourage states to continue to support need-based grant aid for the students at your institution.
  • Work with your state independent college association to show how state need-based aid helps make college possible for Pell Grant students.


NAICU Contacts