Many don’t apply for aid

A study shows many students eligible for financial aid are not applying for it.

Lacey Crisp

A new study found that hundreds of thousands of eligible students are not receiving federal financial aid because they are not applying for it.

A study the American Council on Education released showed many students are not applying for financial aid. The data are for the years 1999 to 2000. Large portions of low-income and full-time students did not complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Approximately 2 million low- and moderate-income students did not apply for aid. Students who attend community colleges were least likely to apply for federal financial aid.

Kris Wright, director of student finance at the University, said people generally do not apply because they don’t think they will get any aid.

“They really are misunderstanding as to how much aid is available,” Wright said. “The most important thing for students to do is apply – they may find themselves pleasantly surprised.”

The American Council on Education estimated that half, or approximately 8 million, students who were enrolled in schools that had financial aid programs failed to apply.

Wright said that sometimes the University matches some grants.

According to the report, almost one quarter of students who did not apply received aid that does not require a FAFSA. Those students received an average of $2,400 for the year from other programs.

“I would strongly urge everyone to apply for financial aid and see what they are eligible for,” Wright said.

Cheryl Maplethorpe, director of student financial aid services for Minnesota, said the data is a national snapshot and not necessarily characteristic of Minnesota.

“More people from Minnesota are applying, because we have larger state grants, and students have to apply for their FAFSA to get those,” Maplethorpe said.

The three top reasons students gave for not applying were that they thought their family income was too high, they could afford to pay for college or they missed the deadline.

“Many students said they didn’t apply because of the deadline, but Minnesota has a later deadline,” Maplethorpe said. “We also have deadlines for each semester.”

She said that in the future, the American Council on Education will research individual state levels more carefully. The data for Minnesota will be available in May.

According to the study, approximately 850,000 students who did not complete an application would have been eligible for a Pell Grant.

Maplethorpe said that if all students applied, “there would be a heavier draw for the aid programs. If they need the aid, we want them to have it.”