Don't Leave Your Student Financial Aid Unclaimed

Higher ed costs are rising, and students are struggling more than ever to get a college education - especially those from low- and moderate-income households. Compounding the problem: Findings from a College Board report reveal that students most in need of financial aid are leaving millions in federal education funds unclaimed. Schools offering Finance degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

FAFSA financial aid for college

Funds Go Unclaimed

Many low- and moderate-income students are missing out on a big opportunity to make college more attainable. 'The Financial Aid Challenge,' a report of the College Board's Advocacy and Policy Center, suggests that students most in need of money for higher education aren't even applying for it. The problem is worst in community colleges where about 40% of students eligible for assistance fail to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form that enables individuals to access financial help for college. Even in 4-year colleges the percentage of aid-eligible students not completing the FAFSA was about 23%.

The authors of the College Board report suggest that their findings have troubling implications. They highlight the importance of community colleges in the U.S. economy, pointing out that 2-year schools represent an accessible gateway for students looking to enter the workforce with marketable skills. Without college aid, these students are likely to have to work more than 20 hours a week - which can adversely affect their studies and diminish their prospects for completing degree program. Students who are able to complete college without financial aid are more likely to experience a strain on personal and family finances, including debt.

Connecting Students with Aid

Community colleges are the higher ed home of about half of undergraduate students in the U.S., so the 40% that fail to complete the FAFSA represent a significant number of individuals. Another reason why fewer individuals from 2-year institutions apply for aid, the College Board points out, is that many accessing higher education at community colleges are minority, low-income and first-generation students. They often come from households with limited knowledge about the college experience - including financial aid procedures. Additionally, language barriers may leave students ignorant of monetary help available to them.

The College Board that suggests 2-year institutions need to do a better job of helping students access need-based aid. Institutions are urged to provide better financial aid counseling for students, including bilingual personnel, extended office hours and digital outreach. 'The Financial Aid Challenge' also recommends schools have students complete admissions and financial aid applications at the same time. They're also encouraged to connect with high schools and community groups to increase awareness about available financial aid. At the individual level, the College Board urges students at both 2- and 4-year institutions to fill out the FAFSA to receive all of the financial aid that's available to them.

Learn what you need to know about the FAFSA.

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