Over $2.9 Billion in Free College Money Unclaimed by Students – Why?

The best way to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself by students missing out on free financial aid is for both graduating seniors and, of course, parents, to fill out their FAFSA forms ASAP!

Elizabeth Hoyt

January 20, 2015

Over $2.9 Billion in Free College Money Unclaimed by Students – Why?

According to a recent study* by NerdScholar, the higher education team at NerdWallet, high school graduates in the U.S. left more than $2.9 billion in free federal grant money unused over the last academic year.

Sounds crazy, right? Crazy but true. How is that even possible? Well, according to the study, their only mistake was not completing the FAFSA.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, the FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and it’s the form you fill out to qualify for federal aid and, additionally, a lot of state and college aid programs as well.

Unlike student loans, filling out the FAFSA can qualify students for aid that doesn’t need to be paid back, like, Pell Grant money, for example.

And, according to NerdScholar’s findings, 47% of all 2013’s high school graduates didn’t even complete the FAFSA, which is the first step to finding out if you qualify for financial aid.

In response to low FAFSA completion rates, President Obama and the First Lady have issued a FAFSA Completion Challenge Initiative, in partnership with the Department of Education.

Key Findings

• U.S. graduating high school seniors who were eligible to receive Pell Grants in 2013, but neglected to complete a FAFSA, missed out on $2.9 billion (2,955,475,413 to be exact) in potential Pell Grant aid.

• The state of Utah was home to the largest percentage, 40%, of high school seniors who were eligible to receive Pell Grants but missed out because they neglected complete and file their FAFSA forms.

• Over 100,000 high school seniors in California could have qualified for Pell Grants ‒ if they had filed their FAFSA.

• Students in the state of California alone lost $396,401,205 in Pell Grant dollars because they simply neglected to fill out their FAFSA forms.

(According to NerdScholar Data & Findings)


Financial aid is distributed on a first come, first serve basis. The best way to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself by students missing out on free financial aid is for both graduating seniors and, of course, parents, to fill out their FAFSA forms as soon as possible. Like, now.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, good news! Fastweb’s FAFSA Headquarters can help you with everything you need, from start to finish.

Here are a few key articles, to get you started:

FAFSA Checklist
What’s the FAFSA? And Why You Should Care
What’s the FAFSA? And Why You Should Care
Your 2015-2016 Financial Aid Deadlines

If you still have financial aid-related questions, don’t worry! Fastweb’s FAFSA section has the answers to all of your FAFSA-related questions or can point you in the direction of someone who does have the answer if you’re still confused.

Being intimidated by a financial form is understandable, but it’s not an excuse to miss out on a lot money that can help you pay for school.

Remember, free answers can always be found but free tuition money? Well, that isn’t quite so easy to come by!

*To learn more about the methodology and data used within NerdScholar’s study, you can check out their detailed study, data and findings.

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