The politics of college affordability : a multiple streams analysis of financial aid policymaking in Texas




Drake, Anna Peterson

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This multiple case study (Yin, 2014) applies Kingdon’s (1984) multiple streams approach (MSA) to the examination of how politics in Texas shapes state financial aid policymaking. I analyzed three bills considered by the Texas Legislature between 2011 and 2015, each affecting a different type of student aid: a need-based grant, forgivable loan, and tuition exemption. The bills that comprise my cases each sought to alter or eliminate one of these programs. I conducted 50 stakeholder interviews, collected 135 documentary sources, and used pattern matching (Yin, 2014) and constant comparison (Merriam, 2009) data analysis techniques. The purpose of my study was to understand how politics shaped the development and outcome of each bill, and consequently the financial assistance available to help Texas students afford higher education. Findings revealed ambiguity and political opportunism surrounding the issue of college affordability; the influence of conservative political culture, partisanship, electoral politics, leadership changes, and policy entrepreneurs; and the use and misuse of data to shape policy. In conclusion, I offer implications for policy and practice and present an adapted multiple streams model of college affordability policymaking.


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