More than 19 percent of college students are eligible for financial aid but don’t complete a FAFSA form, according to published research from an economics professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The issue: College students who want financial aid from the federal government must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, most commonly known as the FAFSA. The information provided on that form determines whether a student qualifies for Pell Grants, federally-subsidized education loans and work-study programs. Many colleges and universities also require students to submit a FAFSA to qualify for other aid, including grants and scholarships the school offers.
Even though there’s potentially a lot of money at stake, thousands of students skip the 105-question form, which is longer and, in some ways, more complicated than a federal tax return (The 2016 Form 1040 is two pages and 79 questions). For years, education leaders, student advocates and others have spoken out about the problem. Meanwhile, schools as well as non-profit groups such as FAFSA Day Massachusetts and the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority hold regular events to offer families one-on-one assistance.