A new survey on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid shows the two biggest complaints are more noticeable.
For the second year in a row, Debt.com asked applicants if they had a hard time following the federal government’s instructions. Slightly less than 4 in 10 (38 percent) reported they had “trouble filling out a FAFSA form” – only 3 in 10 said the same last year.
More than half (53 percent) say the biggest challenge is “knowing all the required financial information,” up 9 percent from last year when asked the same exact question.
There’s a plan in action to cut down the number of questions from 108 to 36 – but changes won’t go into full effect until October 2022. To date, only two questions have been removed: One about selective service and another asking if the applicant has ever been convicted of a drug-related offense.
“The basic architecture of this crucial form is unchanged,” says Don Silvestri, president of Debt.com. “Instead, I believe it’s the people who have changed.”
Since the last filing deadline, Americans have gotten back to school and work. Silvestri has reason to believe the shift in lifestyle may distract applicants from absorbing the forms.
“FAFSA didn’t get any more difficult than it already is, we just had more time to decipher it because we were sheltering at home during the pandemic,” Silvestri says. “Now that we’re back to our normally busy lives, it’s easy to get distracted and read the instructions just a little less carefully than before.”
Some of the main takeaways include:
- 89 percent said they thought their child or themselves qualified for financial aid, but only 69 percent actually qualified – 1 percent more than last year.
- Other challenges people faced while filling out FAFSA were receiving an error message (15 percent this year, compared to 18 percent last year), not creating an FSA ID beforehand (6 percent, down from 7 percent), and not knowing the deadline (3 percent, about the same).
- 36 percent said they felt the Pell Grant would involve taking on more debt – 2 percent more than last year.
The deadline to file for FAFSA is June 30. Judging by the results below, billions of dollars in free college aid will once again be left on the table.
4 in 10 had trouble filling out the FAFSA application
Having all the financial information on hand is the biggest challenge
Most respondents are sure they or their child will qualify for aid
Despite the confusion, most respondents do qualify for aid
More than 3 in 10 feel a federal Pell Grant will contribute to their debt
Every year, more than $2 billion worth of free money for college goes unused. This may be why.
Three in ten Americans have a hard time filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to Debt.com’s latest survey. The biggest reason seems most don’t know all the required financial information they’ll need to file. Our findings are similar to other survey results questioning why more eligible students are leaving financial aid on the table.
Back in 2018, the federal government wanted to find out why lower-income students neglect to fill out a FAFSA. Of students who don’t file, 3 out of 10 said “I thought I wouldn’t qualify” and “it’ll cause me to take on more debt.”
Here’s why all the above statistics are alarming: More than 44 million Americans owe an average $37,000 student loan tab. Below are the most interesting results from asking “Is it hard to apply for FAFSA?”
3 in 10 respondents said they’ve had trouble filling out FAFSA
The majority of survey respondents said they “didn’t know the required financial information” to file FAFSA
3 out of 5 FAFSA applicants said they qualified for financial aid
Debt.com has tips for filing FAFSA.
Methodology: Debt.com surveyed 700 people and asked six questions about their experiences applying for a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). People responded from all 50 states and Washington, DC and were aged 18 and above. Responses were collected through SurveyMonkey. The survey was conducted from May 9, 2022, to June 8, 2022.