Report: Majority of Undergraduates Relied on Some Form of Federal Aid

By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Undergraduates who received some form of financial aid were given an average of $13,000, with about 70% of all undergraduates receiving some type of financial aid, according to a new report.

The 2017–18 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides a comprehensive look at how students finance their postsecondary education and shows the prevalence of federal financial aid.

“This report shows that financial aid is essential to making college affordable for a large group of students and underscores the value of federal financial aid,” NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr said in a press release

The study is based off data from 245,000 undergraduate students and 21,000 graduate students attending 1,900 postsecondary institutions in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, representing the roughly 16.6 million undergraduate and 3.6 million

graduate students enrolled in Title IV-eligible institutions at the time. Data were collected between July 2018 and September 2019 and the “first look” released in this study comes before the full data set is released to the public in November. 

Nearly 60% of all undergraduates received federal student aid, 25% received state aid, and 25% received institutional aid. Of the 60% who received some form of federal student aid, 44% received federal Pell Grants, and 14% received federal campus-based aid, according to the study. Undergraduates who received federal Pell Grants received an average of $3,900. 

Further, nearly 40% of undergraduate students took out subsidized or unsubsidized federal Direct Loans (DL). Undergraduate borrowers took out an average of $6,600 in DL overall, including $3,800 in subsidized loans and $4,000 in unsubsidized loans.

Among states with samples that support reporting, undergraduate students in Arizona had the lowest rates of state aid receipt, at less than 3%, while undergraduates in Kentucky had the highest rate of state aid receipt, at about 50%.

As for graduate students, 58% received some type of financial aid, with 26% receiving grants, 3% receiving graduate assistantships, and 41% taking out loans. The average amount of aid received by graduate students was $23,800 and the average amount of grants was $10,400. 

The findings across the board underscore the increased reliance among borrowers on financial aid, particularly as the federal government has become a de facto lender to a majority of borrowers. 


Publication Date: 9/20/2021

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