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Most high school students aren’t applying for financial aid, study says

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On average, less than half of high school students actually complete their financial aid forms, which means they could be losing out on money for college, according to the National College Access Network.

The nonprofit released a report today on how many high school students filled out Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the application for state and federal financial aid, in 2015. As a result, students are “leaving billions of dollars” on the table, the report said.

Elizabeth Morgan, director of external relations for the National College Access Network, said the data helps illustrate the need to inform younger students. The nonprofit conducted a different study in October and found that more than half of students who didn’t apply say they didn’t know financial aid existed.

“They don’t believe that there’s money,” she said. “They don’t understand that there’s money to help them pay for college. That’s the fundamental problem.”

The report’s data represents high school students age 18 and under in 68 cities. The highest completion rate was 68 percent, but the average rate was 48 percent. The lowest rate was 25 percent. The data doesn’t account for whether or not students actually qualify for financial aid.

Here are the highest and lowest completion rates for the cities the report analyzed:


The report is presenting the low completion rates as an argument for streamlining the FAFSA process. It adds to the ongoing efforts of U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., who made a push in September to streamline the FAFSA process. He said his goal was to reach the students who are eligible, but slip through the cracks.

Why is it so important to get funding for students? One argument is that a student’s financial situation can affect his or her ability to graduate college.

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