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Why Students Do Not Apply For Financial Aid



Common Reasons Why College Students Forgo Financial Aid

The US Department of Education recently commissioned a broad-based study to determine why undergraduate college students do not apply for financial aid.  The data from the study was assembled visa vi the National Postsecondary Aid Study (NPSAS:12) and includes a variety of financial aid including grants, scholarships, loans, assistantships, fellowships, tuition waivers, employer aid, veteran’s benefits, tuition discounts, and a variety of other monies used in conjunction with expenses related to college.

In aggregate, what percentage of full-time and part-time undergraduates did not apply for financial aid?  Fully 20% of all students surveyed did not apply for financial aid related to their higher education.  Seventy percent filed for financial aid to help offset the costs associated with college and 10% of students applied for nonfederal aid only.

What percentage of undergraduate students failed to apply for financial aid at public 2-year colleges and universities?  A whopping 30% of undergraduate students at public 2-year colleges did not apply for financial aid.  Nine percent of undergraduate students at public 2-year colleges applied for nonfederal aid only thus leaving 61% applying for aid.

What percentage of undergraduates attending a public 4-year college applied for financial aid?   Seventy-one percent of undergraduate students attending a 4-year public college or university applied for financial aid with 10% filing for nonfederal aid only.  The remainder of the 19% of undergraduates attending a public 4-year university failed to apply for any college aid.

What percentage of undergraduate students failed to apply for financial aid at private non-profit 4-year colleges?  Just 11% of undergraduate students attending a private non-profit 4-year college failed to apply for financial aid.  Fourteen percent applied for non-federal aid which left 76% of undergraduate students at private non-profit 4-year colleges that did apply for aid.

What percentage of undergraduates attending a for-profit college or university applied for financial aid?  Fully 87% of undergraduate students attending a for-profit college or university applied for financial aid.  Just 8% of the undergraduates surveyed by the NPSAS applied for nonfederal aid only leaving a scant 5% of students non applying for financial aid at for-profit colleges.

What are the primary reasons why college undergraduates did not apply for financial aid?  There are five primary reasons why undergraduates did not apply for college aid that we will cover.  The most common reason students did not apply for financial aid was cited as ‘could not afford college without financial aid’.  This reason was cited by 51% of undergraduates who did not apply for financial aid at public 4-year institutions and 49% of students attending private non-profit 4-year and for-profit schools.

The next most common reason students did not apply for aid was that they believe they were ‘ineligible’.  Of all the college and university institution types listed in the survey, the percentage of students citing that they were ineligible ranges from 43%-46%.

The third reason most cited for not applying for financial aid was that students ‘did not want debt’.  Of the respondents in the survey, fully 37% of undergraduate students at public 4-year colleges and 33% of students from public 2-year institutions cited debt as a limiting factor for applying for aid.  Twenty-five percent of undergraduate students at private nonprofit 4-year schools and 21% of those attending a for-profit college cited debt as the primary reason for not pursuing financial aid.

The fourth reason students did not apply for aid was rooted in a ‘lack of information on how to apply’.  Overall, just 13% of undergraduate students that responded to the NPSAS survey were unable to find information on the process to apply for financial aid for their higher education expenses.

The final reason cited by undergraduate students for not applying for financial aid was the ‘forms were too much work’.  A paltry 9% of all respondents from public 2-year, public 4-year, private nonprofit 4-year, and for-profit institutions did not apply for financial aid as it was too much work for them to complete the necessary forms.

If you are considering your options for paying for your higher education expenses, we strongly encourage students to take the time to complete the FAFSA form early in the calendar year and invest in yourself by completing any/all necessary forms to get help paying for your education.  The investment will be worth the work!

For additional resources, make sure to visit additional financial aid publications such as Facts about the FAFSA, Finding College Scholarships, and Maximizing Your Financial Aid today only with MatchCollege.