Sunday, April 02, 2017

Florida students leave more than $100 million in Pell Grants unclaimed

Prospective FAMU, and other Florida, students leave millions in federal financial aid unclaimed according to a data by the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) which shows that Florida high schools with the most low-income students have the lowest Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates.

At schools with large numbers of low-income students, just 27 percent of students completed their forms — more than 28 percent less than the state average FCAN found.

Because of the low FAFSA completion rate, Florida students leave behind over $100 million in federal Pell Grant money the data shows.

“A lot of research tells us the students who would benefit the most from financial aid are often the students least likely to know the aid is available," said Troy Miller, associate director for Research & Policy at the Florida College Access Network. "So they don’t fill out the forms because don’t think they’ll be eligible or they’re averse to loans or they’re confused about how financial aid works."

Overall, the number of Florida high school seniors applying for federal financial aid is up about 8 percent compared with this time last year, according to the Florida College Access Network.

The uptick is due in part to the earlier date the FAFSA became available this year. In past years, the FAFSA went online Oct. 1 as compared to Jan. 1 this year.

Still, across the board, there’s a lot of money being left on the table. The federal government provides $150 billion in financial aid each year, much of it in the form of student loans, but also as scholarships.

Pell Grants offer more than $35 billion in need-based scholarships annually, but an estimated $100 million goes unclaimed each year, according to the Florida College Access Network.

The earlier students apply for financial aid, the more likely they are to get more funding.

“If you put your hand in a piggy bank when it’s full, there’s going to be more money available. But the longer you wait, that piggy bank is going to get thinner and thinner,” Miller said.

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