Sallie Mae study shows 44% of families didn't utilize scholarships to pay for college in 2021: Here's why

Millions in untapped scholarships and federal aid are available

Families are not utilizing scholarships, despite many that are available to them. Here are the available options and top reasons families don't apply.  (iStock)

Scholarships can be a tremendous help when it comes to how families pay for a child's college education, but according to a new survey conducted by Sallie Mae, nearly half of families didn't use any scholarships in 2021.

According to the company's How Americans Pay for College 2021 study, 44% of families surveyed didn't use scholarships to help with tuition costs. The study also found that a whopping 78% of families that didn't use scholarships to help pay for school didn't even apply for them.

Sallie Mae found that about 60% of students using scholarships had them granted from the school they attend, averaging $9,797. Scholarship funds from other sources like companies and nonprofits were used significantly less, and averaged just under $2,000.

If you are looking to pay for college but scholarships aren’t an option, consider taking out a private student loan while interest rates are at historic lows. Visit Credible to find your personalized rate and get prequalified without affecting your credit score. 


Top reasons families don’t apply for scholarships

For many parents who don’t apply for scholarships for their children, they're seemingly unaware of the options available to them. For example, 29% of parents in Sallie Mae's study said they didn’t think scholarships were available for their child, and 25% didn’t know about any scholarships altogether.

More than one million scholarships become available each year, but eligible students who are qualified don't take the time to apply, according to Scholly, an app and website that helps student find scholarship money. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of these scholarships go unclaimed each year.

For students, on the other hand, 44% surveyed by Sallie Mae said they didn’t apply because they didn’t think they would win. Another 28% said they didn’t have time to apply and 20% said it was too much effort to complete applications. Only 6% of families who didn’t apply for scholarships cited their reason as not needing the additional funds.

High school seniors should consider working toward improving their grade point average and looking at lists of scholarship databases to find funding based on academic achievement. If you have applied for scholarships and need additional funds to pay for school, consider taking out a private student loan. Visit Credible to compare multiple student lenders at once and find the one with the best rate for you.


Less families completing FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which provides federal grants and federal student loans to students and parents paying for school, has seen a steady decline in applicants over the past two years. 

In 2019, 77% of families submitted a FAFSA application to see what aid is available for school. Sallie Mae's study showed that this dropped to 71% in 2020 and 68% in 2021. The primary reason families reported not applying was that they didn’t believe they qualified for any need-based financial aid. Even 31% of low-income families and 36% of middle-income families thought they didn’t qualify for federal tuition aid. 

College students can appeal for more aid if they qualify and submit their FAFSA before the deadline. About 29% of families who received a financial aid offer from their school appealed for more aid, and 71% of these appeals were granted.

If you applied for FAFSA and received aid but still need more funding beyond the grants, scholarships, and federal student loans, consider taking out a private student loan while interest rates are low. Contact Credible to speak to a student loan expert and get all of your questions answered.

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