Research Motivation and Purpose The Taiwanese government has developed numerous financial aid measures to reduce the burden of higher education expenses for economically disadvantaged students. However, a large majority of economically disadvantaged university students continue to raise their education expenses through work-study opportunities. Furthermore, the complicated scholarship application process discourages students from applying for available scholarships, suggesting that the resources and measures aimed at supporting disadvantage students are inadequate. To address the dearth of information in this area, this study invited economically disadvantaged students who had received government assistance during their studies to participate in focus groups. This study aimed to (1) investigate whether the support measures offered by the government to students from low-income and lower-middle-income families and to students receiving funding from the Financial Aid Project for Economically Disadvantaged Students in Higher Education are sufficient to assist these students in their studies and (2) identify obstacles to the practical application of these support measures. Literature Review Reflecting the research goals, the literature review discusses relevant theoretical research in the field of student financial aid. It includes a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of educational assistance measures and the current efforts by the Taiwanese government to assist economically disadvantaged students with their educational expenses, as well as related problems and responses. The literature reveals that scholarships are the most direct method of reducing student financial burdens and that work-study programs that address both educational expenses and the student’s future development offer long-term benefits. Taiwan has expanded the number of recipients of funding from the Financial Aid Project for Economically Disadvantaged Students in Higher Education and has worked to strengthen work-study programs to ensure a connection between the work done and the student’s studies. However, the literature demonstrates that insufficient scholarships and work-study opportunities result in most students still choosing to work off-campus. Methodology This study was based on a consideration of schooling needs and support measures for a wide range of students enrolled in different types of universities. Fourteen students studying at four higher education institutions—public and private universities and public and private science and technology universities—were invited to participate. Each student came from a low-income or lower-middle-income family or was receiving funding from the Financial Aid Project for Economically Disadvantaged Students in Higher Education. This study investigated the channels and quotas for financial aid opportunities that are purportedly available to economically disadvantaged students and explored each interviewee’s actual experiences regarding the availability of such resources, as well as the barriers to entry created by the operational nature of financial assistance measures. Research Results The results reveal that low-income students in both public and private universities can reduce the financial burden of higher education without applying for additional loans by accessing various government scholarships and stipends. However, students from lower-middle-income families who receive funding from the Financial Aid Project for Economically Disadvantaged Students in Higher Education are still unable to acquire their schooling expenses through government scholarships and stipends, highlighting the ineffectiveness of existing financial aid measures for the most economically disadvantaged students. In addition, information regarding financial assistance is still not sufficiently updated or relayed to the students and families who need it the most. Even if parents and students receive the necessary information, the confusion caused by the names and qualifications of the different measures and the unfriendly and cumbersome nature of the application process reduces willingness to apply. Discussion and Research Suggestions To support economically disadvantaged students starting or finishing their tertiary education, the author suggests the following: (1) The number of scholarships and amount of aid available to students from lower-middle-income families and students under the Financial Aid Project for Economically Disadvantaged Students in Higher Education should be increased. (2) Work-study programs should be implemented with a focus on the student’s current studies or future career, and the labeling of the assistance measures should be standardized to help students distinguish their available options. (3) Finally, the updating and circulation of financial aid-related information should be improved. This study offers the Ministry of Education and universities a summary table of scholarships, the materials and deadlines for applications, and a point of contact that students and their families can access easily.
- economically underprivileged students
- higher education
- student aid system
ASJC Scopus subject areas