To Apply or Not to Apply: FAFSA Completion and Financial Aid Gaps

45 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2013 Last revised: 13 Feb 2015

See all articles by Michael Kofoed

Michael Kofoed

United States Military Academy; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Kofoed, Michael, To Apply or Not to Apply: FAFSA Completion and Financial Aid Gaps (February 12, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Kofoed (Contact Author)

United States Military Academy ( email )

600 Thayer Rd
West Point, NY 10996
United States
801-540-8789 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics