2 million students are missing out on free money for college
Even as college costs rise, millions of students are missing out on the opportunity to get free money for college.
According to an analysis of federal data by Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president at Edvisors Network, about 2 million students could have qualified for the need-based Federal Pell Grant during the 2011-12 academic year.
Of that group, 1.3 million would have qualified for a full Pell Grant of $5,645 for the 2013-14 academic year. That’s a free $22,580 over 4 years. If these students had instead borrowed loans to cover that amount, they’d have to pay it all back, plus interest.
So why didn’t these student receive this free money for college?
They didn’t file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
File the FAFSA even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid
According to the analysis, nearly half of all of those who didn’t file assumed they were ineligible for aid because they made too much money.
But financial aid isn’t based on income alone. The FAFSA also takes into account the family’s other expenses, assets, whether the family has other kids in college, and the rising cost of college.
And if these students qualified for the Pell Grant, they would have likely qualified for other types of financial aid too–including grants and low-interest subsidized Federal Stafford Loans.
If you don’t file the FAFSA, you’ll never know if you would have been eligible for financial aid.
Maximize federal financial aid
These students aren’t the only ones leaving money on the table.
A recent analysis of private student loan borrowers found that more than half failed to max out their federal student loans, and a quarter didn’t take out any federal loans.
Federal loans have lower interest rates and better repayment terms than private student loans, but you can only take them out if you file the FAFSA.
The bottom line: Always file your FAFSA
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: File your FAFSA even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for financial aid. Whether you make $10,000 a year or $100,000; whether you have one child or ten.
As college becomes more expensive, the Office of Federal Student Aid is taking steps to meet the needs of families who can’t afford skyrocketing tuition. You have nothing to lose by applying for aid, and the minimal amount of work required to fill out the FAFSA is worth it if it saves you thousands of dollars on college.