It’s FAFSA season, which means current and prospective college students overwhelmed by college expenses should be busy filling out the form that gives them access to billion of dollars of free federal aid.
But not all do, and according to a new study by NerdScholar, it shows. In the 2013-14 academic year, NerdScholar estimates that California high school graduates eligible for the Pell Grant who did not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) missed out on nearly $400 million of free federal grant money.
Nationally, the total came to over $2.9 billion of unclaimed aid.
NerdScholar estimates that over 100,000 Pell-eligible California high school students didn’t complete the FAFSA, leaving $3640 of average grant awards forfeited per student.
The Pell Grant, unlike student loans, does not need to be paid back. NerdScholar focused on the Pell Grant because it’s the largest source of federal college funds for students who can’t afford to pay full price for college. The maximum amount award to students in 2014-15 is $5830.
So what then? If you’re among the thousands of lower- and middle-income students in need of college aid, apply for the FAFSA right now.
While FAFSA can be submitted as late as June 30, it’s recommended to apply before March 1, when many colleges who base financial aid on fund availability begin determining awards for students. The longer you put it off, the less money there is available.
Submitting FAFSA will determine if you’re eligible for the Pell Grant.
Coincidentally, most of California’s state financial aid programs have a deadline of March 2 for access to funds such as the Cal Grant, which provides up to $12,192 for qualifying California colleges.
It’s recommended you also check individual college financial aid deadlines.
To read NerdScholar’s full study, visit nerdwallet.com. Be sure to check out their extensive financial aid information covering topics such as everything you need to know about applying for FAFSA in 2015.