Students Who Fail To Fill Out FAFSA Could Be Missing Out, Analysis Finds

"About 2 million students have missed out on 'free' money toward college assistance, simply because they didn’t apply for it," The Daily Nebraskan reports.

"In the 2011-2012 academic year, about 2 million students would have qualified for the need-based Federal Pell Grant but didn’t because they failed to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to new analysis of government date from Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president of Edvisors Network and author of 'Filing the FAFSA.'

This trend also continued on for the 2013-2014 academic year, when 1.3 million would have qualified for a full Pell Grant of $5,645 but again didn’t because a FAFSA wasn’t filed.

'For many years I’ve always told families, ‘Don’t assume that you’re not eligible,’' said Craig Munier, director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 'The best way to find out if you’re eligible is to apply because the process and the eligibility criteria used by the federal government can change from year-to-year, so your experience from three years ago may not still be relevant.'

Munier said family circumstances are so complex that he couldn’t even begin to guess who is and isn’t eligible for financial assistance.

Each year, UNL’s Office of Admissions and Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid send out campaign emails to students. These emails remind students to file by the advertised priority date, April 1, to get the best financial aid package possible because some resources do run out each year.

Specifically, the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid identifies students who are enrolled but haven’t enrolled for the next year and sends them a personal email to remind them, Munier said.

'We don’t want to continue to badger students,' he said. 'We want to remind them if they’ve applied in the past – not every family needs financial aid so you can’t just say everyone needs to do this – not everyone has the same financial circumstances.' ...

Recently, President Barack Obama announced an initiative to encourage more students to file a FAFSA. The initiative will build off a 2010 program that shows the number of students who have filed a FAFSA at each high school throughout the country. This will involve the sharing of data so different districts can track students to see who hasn’t filled out the form.

Obama also plans to include a mandatory $4 billion in spending that encourages states to change how they fund higher education and a $300 million Race to the Top competition for educational equity, according to a recent Politico article.

'Any kind of initiative is bound to help,' Munier said. 'It’s going to raise awareness in American families in the importance of applying. I think it’s admirable that the president is taking time out of his busy schedule to make this an important priority for his attention and remarks – it’s very helpful.'"

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