Less Than Half of Parents with College-Bound Students Report They Have Completed the FAFSA

September 20, 2018

RIVERWOODS, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Forty six percent of parents with college-bound students report that they have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)1, according to a survey commissioned by Discover Student Loans. The survey also showed that nearly a quarter (22 percent) of students currently in college or recently graduated said they don’t know what the FAFSA is.

Why parents and students chose not to complete the FAFSA

The beliefs that they would not qualify or didn’t need federal aid were the primary reasons both parents and students chose not to complete the FAFSA.

  • 50 percent of parents with students currently in school or recently graduated said they didn’t fill it out because they felt they wouldn’t qualify for federal aid. When this segment of students were asked, 35 percent reported not filling it out because they felt they wouldn’t qualify.
  • 42 percent of students in college or recently graduated didn’t fill it out because they felt they didn’t need federal aid.

Regional differences exist

Views on the ability to qualify and whether or not survey respondents need financial aid varied geographically. In the South, 62 percent of parents of current or recently graduated students did not apply for the FAFSA because they didn’t believe they would qualify versus 38 percent in the West. Sixty-seven percent of current or recently graduated students from the Northeast said they didn’t fill out the FAFSA because they didn’t need to apply for federal aid versus 25 percent in the West.

“Filling out the FAFSA is a critical step in the college financing process since schools use it to determine eligibility for federal, state and institutional aid, including grants and scholarships,” said Nicole Straub, vice president for Discover Student Loans. “The FAFSA becomes available October 1 and families should plan to fill it out every year a student is in school, even if they feel they won’t qualify or don’t need the aid, because most people will be eligible for some aid.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 72 percent of undergraduate students received some form of financial aid, which includes grants, federal student loans, and work-study.2

Who is actually filling out the FAFSA?

The survey responses show that parents and students aren’t taking the opportunity to fill out the FAFSA together.

  • Less than a quarter of parents with college-bound teens responded saying they filled out the FAFSA with their child.
  • 43 percent of parents with students in college or recently graduated reported that they or another parent filled out the FAFSA themselves.

“It’s important for parents and students to communicate early and often about paying for college, and the FAFSA should be a part of those conversations,” said Straub. “If families work together to fill out the FAFSA, review their award letters and create a plan to pay for college, it can minimize any surprises and help everyone understand their future financial responsibilities.”

Discover Student Loans offers tools and resources to help parents and students understand the college financing process. Discover Student Loans provides private student loans and is not affiliated with the FAFSA or federal financial aid. For more information about Discover Student Loans, please visit www.discover.com/student-loans.

1 FAFSA is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department of Education.

About the Survey

The Discover Student Loans national online survey of 2,015 students, former students and parents in the United States was conducted between April 26 – May 7, 2018. Four similar surveys were administered among specific target audiences, by Research Now, an independent survey research firm. Target audiences included Parents of “College Bound” Students (age 16-18); Parents of Current and Former (Recently-graduated, age 18-24); Current and Former (Recently-graduated, age 18-24) Students. The margin of sampling error was +/-3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover card, America's cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its direct banking business. It operates the Discover Global Network comprised of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance in 190 countries and territories. For more information, visit www.discover.com/company.

Rob Weiss
Discover Financial Services

Source: Discover Financial Services