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The costs associated with obtaining higher education make financial aid a necessity for many students. While now best known for its student loan programs, the federal government has offered various forms of aid to higher education throughout its history. This entry traces the history of federal financial assistance to higher education from the early use of land grants to promote the establishment of postsecondary institutions to the extensive loan programs implemented in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Early Institutional Aid

Early on, the federal government expressed only minute interest in higher education. Prior to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 supplied land grants to fund the establishment of a university in the territory that became the State of Ohio in ...

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