College students fail to fill out FAFSA
Hundreds of thousands of undergraduate students from low- andmoderate-income families failed to file the Free Application forFederal Student Aid in the 1999-2000 academic year, according to astudy released Monday. All of them received not one red cent offederal financial aid to fund their higher education goals.
The American Council on Education, whichrepresents colleges and universities, conducted the study titled,Missed Opportunities: Students Who Do Not Apply for FinancialAid, through their Center for Policy Analysis. The briefanalyzed data from a similar study produced by the Department ofEducation.
“Understanding who does not apply forfinancial aid and why is essential to the success of any financialaid program,” Jacqueline E. King, the center’s directorand the author of the study, said in a statement. “This issuebrief clearly illustrates that financial aid remained an untappedresource for millions of students who could have significantlybenefited from it.”
Of the approximately 850,000 undergraduatestudents from low- and moderate income families, the studyconcluded that all of those students would have been eligible for aPell Grant, the primary grant for low-income students.
Other significant FAFSA findings, which wereconcluded from the most recent available statistics, include: about55 percent of students completed the application after importantdeadlines had passed, 67 percent of community college studentsfailed to complete the form, along with 42 percent attendingfour-year public institutions and 13 percent attending privateinstitutions.
“As someone who has spent his entire life inhigher education, I must say I am dismayed by thesefindings,” ACE President David Ward said in a statement.”We all share some blame for this problem—colleges,high schools, parents, policy makers, and opinion leaders,”Ward continued. “If ever there was a time to advertise theavailability of student aid, that time is now.”
Asurvey of students by the Department of Education in 1995-96revealed that nine percent missed the FAFSA deadlines and 41percent believed their families could fund their higher educationgoals.
Theresponse from the Department of Education has entailed redesigningtheir website (www.studentaid.ed.gov.) this year to be more user-friendly, saidStephanie Babyak, the department’s spokesperson.
Asfor HBCU students and other students of color, unlike race-basedscholarships, federal aid is about dollars and cents—notcolor.
“Financial aid is colorblind,” saidBabyak. “We do not ask about a person’s race orethnicity.”
However, she said the department targets certaingroups like including HBCU students for outreach.
“These missed opportunities can havetremendous consequences for students who may be struggling to meettheir college expenses,” King added. “Vital assistanceis available and no student should pass on the opportunity toreceive that aid because he or she is misinformed, lacks thenecessary information or is unable to navigate through thefinancial aid process.”