Survey: Parents, Students Underestimate Financial Aid Eligibility

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

The vast majority of parents and high school students underestimate their college financial aid eligibility, according to a survey released today.

The survey was released by Royall & Company, a division of the Education Advisory Board (EAB), and polled more than 5,000 high school students and parents about their expected eligibility for need-based financial aid. Overall, just 24 percent of parents and 37 percent of students said they believed they would qualify for financial aid. In reality, about 85 percent of all college-going students receive some form of federal financial aid, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Parents and students from low-income households were also likely to underestimate their chances of receiving financial aid. In households with incomes of $60,000 or less – those most likely to receive need-based financial aid – just 66 percent of parents said they expected to qualify, and just 73 percent of students expected to qualify. EAB’s analysis of NCES data found that 84 percent of students from that income bracket receive Pell Grants.

“There is no doubt that college is too expensive for too many families, but there are resources to make college more affordable,” said Pam Kiecker Royall, head of research at Royall & Company, in a statement. “Low- and middle-income families especially have more funding options for higher education than they realize.”

A significant number of survey respondents also said they didn’t feel entirely comfortable filling out the FAFSA. Forty-three percent of parents from low-income households had concerns about filling out the FAFSA, compared with 16 percent of parents with household incomes of $120,001 or more, according to the survey.

Kiecker Royall added that the survey results highlight a need to better educate parents and students about their college financial aid options. North Central College in Illinois, for example, has been using targeted nudges to encourage parents and students to fill out forms to apply for financial aid, such as the FAFSA. In one year, financial aid submissions increased by 22 percent, according to the survey.

“The [survey] suggests that families’ concerns about how college costs may be driven by their misperceptions about who is eligible for financial aid and how to apply for it. And while this is troublesome for all families, it is especially so for families with lower household incomes,” said Chris Marett, president of Royall & Company, in a statement.

For more information about where to find sources of financial aid and who is eligible, check out resources on NASFAA’s website for students, parents, and counselors, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions section on financial aid awareness.


Publication Date: 6/28/2016

Christina G | 6/28/2016 9:24:36 AM

I think these percentages are misleading in that many families don't think of loans as "financial aid", whether need-based or non-need-based.

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