College-Bound Students Leave Money on the Table

FAFSA Applications Are Down 5%

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA®, is how college-bound students access federal financial aid, grants, and loans. The number of applications for the program are down 5% as of June. Only slightly more than half of all high school seniors have filled out the application, leaving billions of dollars on the table. That is despite the fact that the pandemic has made paying for college more difficult for some students and their families.

The decline in FAFSA applications is particularly worrisome because research shows low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students were hit the hardest by the pandemic. Some of these students may have decided not to pursue college due to the effects of the pandemic.

Application Overhaul in the Works

Even in more normal years, high-school graduates miss out on federal financial aid and grants, often because families do not think they are eligible. Others point to the lengthy and complicated application as a barrier. Education leaders in Congress have been trying to simplify the FAFSA application and increase access to funding. The changes were initially slated to go into effect in the 2023-2024 academic year but are now being delayed until the 2024-2025 year.

For individuals who need financial aid for the 2020-2021 school year, it is important to act ASAP. The deadline for applications is tomorrow, on June 30, 2021. For financial aid for the 2021-2022 academic year the deadline is June 30, 2022.

College Costs Rising

The decline in financial aid applications comes as the cost for a four-year education is on the rise. Tuition, room and board, and fees for a four-year private college averaged $50,770 in the 2020-2021 school year while an in-state public college cost $22,180 on average.

Those prices are expected to continue climbing in the years to come. College is expensive, which is why financial aid exists. Even if a family does not think they will be eligible for federal aid or are intimidated by the lengthy application process, money is available. A little time and research could make a big difference for a student’s education.

When it comes to college, filling out your FAFSA doesn’t have to be so complicated. We’re here to help make the financial aid process easier with FAQs, resources, educational materials, and more. Visit SoFi’s FAFSA® Guide to learn more.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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