College Students Are Missing Out on Billions in Free Financial Aid
Life + Money

College Students Are Missing Out on Billions in Free Financial Aid

REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

High school students left up to $2.7 billion worth of financial aid on the table last year by not filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms.

In 2014, 1.4 million high school students did not fill out the FAFSA forms, according to a NerdWallet analysis released Wednesday. The analysis includes all high school grads, even those who didn’t attend college, in an attempt to show that those who didn’t attend could have received federal aid.

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About half of students who didn’t send in a FAFSA form would have been eligible for Pell grants, worth an average $1,861, according to NerdWallet.

The published cost of tuition and fees at a four-year, public college was $9,410 in 2015-2016, according to the College Board, but the average net price after grants and scholarships was quite a bit less at $5,410.

Getting the best aid package depends on a family’s financial picture and savings strategy, the student’s academic profile, and proper completion of forms required by both schools and the government, including the FAFSA.

The deadlines to fill out the FAFSA range from early January through March, but getting yours in first or as early as possible can boost your chances of getting more aid, since some schools dole out aid based on the date the application is received.

In addition to federal grants, the FAFSA is used to determine qualification for both student and parent federal loans, and institutions sometimes require it for eligibility for merit aid.