Higher Education, Education Law
Federal and state governments regulate the character of
their residents as a condition of immigration, employment, social
services, and beyond. At the state level, “good moral character”
rules have been analyzed in depth for decades, mostly as they pertain
to admission to the bar and other licensed professions. Character
requirements also affect the ability of college students to get
state-funded financial aid, but these policies have received no scholarly
analysis. According to this study’s findings, there have been at
least 50 state financial aid grant programs with character rules,
which begs the question: what does it mean to be a “good” college
student? This paper offers an original study of the character requirements
of state financial aid programs, including analysis of how
character requirements were and still are interpreted and enforced.
New insights are offered on the meaning of good moral character in
this higher education law context that contribute to the wider literature
on the use of good moral character requirements.
This paper begins with a two-part literature review, first on
the history of state financial aid programs and second on the use of
good moral character requirements in American law. Then, the
methods and results of this original study are presented. Three historic
state case studies are discussed in depth to explain how good
moral character requirements were interpreted in the past. Also explained
is how the few remaining good moral character rules are
currently enforced. Finally, a rationale is made for eliminating all
good moral character requirements from state financial aid programs.
"Being A Good College Student: The History of Good Moral Character Rules in State Financial Aid Programs, 1850 to Now,"
BYU Education & Law Journal: Vol. 2020
, Article 3.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byu_elj/vol2020/iss1/3