BYU Education & Law Journal


Bradley Custer


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.