FAFSA application process open: Families miss out on big aid opportunities by failing to apply

Billions of dollars went unclaimed in 2018

Key financial aid forms are now available to high school students and their families, and experts urge people to fill them out – even if they don’t think they will qualify.

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The 2020–21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process opened on Thursday – and the government encourages high school seniors to fill it out as soon as possible in order to obtain aid.

Each year the Department of Education awards about $120 billion in grants, loans and other funds to help millions of students afford education costs. It is the largest provider of student financial aid in the country.

But, even though people appear to be familiar with the FAFSA, many still fail to apply.

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In 2018, $2.6 billion worth of financial aid went unclaimed by individuals who did not fill out FAFSA forms, according to data from NerdWallet. The average Pell Grant that could have been claimed by these individuals was $3,908

As previously reported by FOX Business, experts say the biggest mistake students and families make is not applying for financial aid.

In fact, 37% of high school graduates in 2018 did not complete the FAFSA form, according to NerdWallet.

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Trey Peterson of Haven Financial Group previously told FOX Business that the reasons people don’t apply include the fact that they find it difficult to fill out the application, and/or assume that they won’t qualify for aid. On the contrary, Peterson said there is a good chance families will qualify if they apply.

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Each college may have its own FAFSA deadline – and each state has its own deadline. But experts encourage people to apply as soon as possible, because funds can be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

NerdWallet’s student loans expert, Anna Helhoski added that filling out the forms promptly can help families plan for the cost of higher education.

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