Students miss out on $2.9 billion for college
While college is extremely expensive, there’s a lot of free money out there going unclaimed.
In fact, according to a new analysis by NerdScholar, U.S. high school graduates left over $2.9 billion in free federal grant money on the table last academic year.
How’d they miss out on the free money?
They didn’t fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Skipping the FAFSA costs students billions
In fact, NerdWallet reports that nearly half of all 2013 high school graduates (47%) didn’t complete the form.
Filling out the FAFSA is the first step in receiving the federal Pell Grant, money that does not need to be paid back. It’s a necessary part of the financial aid process that makes students eligible for federal financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study.
NerdWallet determined that students missed out on $2.9 billion by calculating how many students would have been eligible for the grant who did not fill out the form, and evaluated that using the amount of money they would have been eligible for under federal limits.
To figure out how many students did not complete the form, they compared graduation rates to the number of students who actually submitted the FAFSA, according to federal data.
Millions left behind by students in each state
Amounts students left behind varied by state, with higher-population states missing out on significantly more money.
In NerdWallet’s interactive graphic below, you can see how much money in millions was left behind by 2013 high school graduates in each state who didn’t fill out the FAFSA.
In our home state of New York, students missed out on $182.5 million in Pell Grant money to pay for college. And in California, over 100,000 left over $396 million on the table.
Their analysis also found that Utah was home to the largest percentage, 40%, of Pell-eligible seniors who didn’t complete a FAFSA.
Don’t miss out on free money for college
Considering the FAFSA is free and takes only about a half hour to fill out, there’s no reason to skip this important step in the financial aid process.
Now than January 1 has passed, head to www.fafsa.gov and submit the form as soon as possible in order to maximize your financial aid if you have a student in college in the coming year.
Even if you think your family won’t be eligible for aid, it’s important to fill out the form since there are many factors taken into account when determining financial aid.
If you’re confused about filling out the FAFSA, there are plenty of online resources that can help. Check out this video, which walks you through the FAFSA step-by-step. You can also avoid common FAFSA mistakes by checking out this post.