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Research shows FAFSA completion rate declining; Michigan down 12.2%

The number of people taking advantage of federal student aid nationwide has declined 6.4% from a year ago.
Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - This Saturday, May 1, is the deadline for prospective college enrollees in Michigan to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

That’s a requirement for all sorts of scholarships, grants, work study and federal loans. This year there may be more available.

”There is about 150 billion dollars of aid ready to be seized by students,” Sallie Mae spokesperson Ashley Boucher said.

Research shows the number of people nationally taking advantage of that federal student aid has declined 6.4 percent from a year ago. A lack of confidence is part of the reason.

“We’ve seen a bit of a concerning trend over the past couple of years. Fewer families are filing the FAFSA,” Boucher said. “We know of those who have not filed or chose not to, 43% said that they didn’t file because they didn’t think they could qualify for aid.”

Sallie Mae says almost everyone gets something. In Michigan, 46% of students in the class of 2021 have completed the FAFSA, a 12.2% decline compared to last academic year.

“That is a really big jump and my guess would be that would be in large part due to the pandemic and the different things, the uncertainty, the uncertainty with finances, things like that,” Megan Coval said, Vice President of Policy and Federal Relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

If the pandemic has changed your family’s income, where you live, or even your bills, there are more options when it comes to getting financial help for your education.

“It really is important for students to know that they are in the drivers seat,” Boucher said. “You need to call your college or university’s financial aid office and request a special circumstances form. That’s going to help you appeal, navigate or negotiate for more aid.”

Experts are hopeful as the world comes out the other side of COVID-19, numbers will go back up.

“With just so many students experiencing so many different external factors leading to a lot of uncertainty, I think that explains that dip,” Coval said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll get back to a place of where we were before and definitely encourage everyone to fill it out.”

Students who miss this Saturday’s deadline can still apply with the federal government by June 30, but they won’t be eligible for any state of Michigan aid.

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