To Apply or Not to Apply: FAFSA Completion and Financial Aid Gaps
45 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2013 Last revised: 13 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 12, 2014
In the United States, college students must complete the Free Application for Student Federal Aid (FAFSA) to access all forms of federal aid. However, many eligible students do not apply and consequently forgo significant amounts of financial aid. Using data from the 1999-2000, 2003-2004, and 2007-2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey, I examine characteristics that influence whether an eligible student fails to complete FAFSA, and how much financial aid non-applicants could have received. From a nationally representative sample, I find that 13.5 percent of eligible students who attend college do not complete FAFSA. These students tend to be lower to middle income, white, and male. Using propensity score matching, I find that each year, on average, applicants forgo $9,741.05 in total aid which aggregates to $24 billion. Forgone aid includes Pell Grants, subsidized student loans, work-study, and state aid programs.
Keywords: Student Financial Aid; FAFSA Completion; Economics of Higher Education; Propensity Score Matching
JEL Classification: I22, I28, H52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation