75% of families unaware FAFSA application opens in October, survey says

If you still need help paying for college after receiving federal aid, you could consider a private student loan

The FAFSA application period opens in October for the following school year, but many families are unaware of the timeline for the first-come, first-serve financial aid, according to a recent survey. (iStock)

Many families were unaware that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or government aid for those attending college, is available beginning in October, according to a recent survey from Sallie Mae and Ipsos. 

FAFSA gives billions of dollars in grants, scholarships and federal financial aid for higher education. Colleges and universities use the FAFSA application to determine need-based aid, much of which is handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The application period for FAFSA opens each year on Oct. 1 for the following school year. This was changed in 2016, when the start date was moved from Jan. 1 to October, to give families more time to apply. But the "How America Pays for College 2022" survey said that 75% of American families are still unaware that they can apply as soon as October. What’s more, just 54% of families know that all families are eligible to apply for aid through FAFSA. 

"The good news is FAFSA completion rates seem to be holding steady although we’d love to see those rates even higher," Sallie Mae Vice President Rick Castellano said in a statement. "The lack of awareness about the open date, however, and continued confusion around eligibility is cause for concern.

"The reality is, just about every family qualifies for some form of aid so we need to continue to educate and inform families that completing the FAFSA can help make college more affordable, especially for those families who need the most support," Castellano said. 

If you still need money for college after finding out what federal aid you are eligible for, you could consider applying for a private student loan. Visit Credible to find your personalized interest rate without affecting your credit score.


Here’s what families are spending on college

On average, families reported spending more than $25,000 per year on college expenses for the 2021-22 academic year, according to the Sallie Mae/Ipsos survey. Families also said they used income and savings to cover about 54% of those college expenses. 

About 73% of families used scholarships and grants to help pay for college expenses, covering 26% of costs. And another 41% of families borrowed money for college, helping them pay for an average 18% of costs. For those who did borrow money for school, the amount they borrowed increased 7% since the previous academic year to an average $9,381. 

If you are looking to borrow money for college after you complete your FAFSA application, you could consider taking out a private student loan to cover the cost. Visit Credible to compare multiple student loan lenders at once and choose the one with the best interest rate for you.


Americans evaluate college priorities

Families said they're willing to invest in college, believing it will create more opportunities for their student's future, according to the survey. About 78% said they're willing to stretch their finances in order to send their students to college. And about 89% of families said they took active steps to make college more affordable. 

"Everyone experienced a significant upheaval two years ago and, as result, many people re-evaluated their priorities," Ipsos Director Jennifer Berg said. "College students and their families are prioritizing the experiences and social aspects of college that they may feel like they have been missing. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve deprioritized the academic aspect of college or their expected return on investment."

About 73% of college students said they're taking online classes, and 75% of them reported having a "good" or "excellent" online learning experience. However, most families still reported wanting their student to be back on campus for in-person classes at least some of the time.

If you are interested in taking out a private student loan to cover your college costs, you could contact Credible to speak to a student loan expert and see if this is the right option for you.

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