Nearly 40% of Parents Who Didn’t Plan to Apply for Federal Aid Now Say They Will as a Result of Covid-19 Pandemic

September 22, 2020

Forty-four percent of parents report they can’t afford to pay as much of their child’s education as originally planned

RIVERWOODS, Ill.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- As COVID-19 has generated much uncertainty in this year’s college experience for both students and their families, a survey from Discover Student Loans indicated more families are hoping to take advantage of federal aid. In fact, 39% of parents who did not plan to apply for federal aid now say they will in light of the recent pandemic.

For many, the best way to access federal aid is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)1, a free annual application that offers families access to the largest source of financial aid to help pay for college2. The application becomes available on Oct. 1st.

“Our survey found that 48% of parents lost income as a result of the pandemic, and 44% said they can’t afford to pay for as much of their child’s education as they had originally planned,” said Manny Chagas, vice president of Discover Student Loans. “Those are significant changes at a time when families are thinking about college and exploring funding options. It underscores the importance of filling out the FAFSA each year.”

The survey from Discover Student Loans polled parents with college-bound teens in early March and again in May. Discover’s May survey found of parents worried about paying for college, 53% are concerned their child is not receiving enough financial aid – up 9% from the pre-pandemic survey. In addition, 26% of families said they would appeal their student’s financial aid package.

Despite this greater focus on financial aid, the earlier survey revealed confusion among parents around when the FAFSA becomes available. Half of parents (50%) believed the FAFSA was available year-round, and just 24% of parents correctly identified the FAFSA application becomes available in October.

“For many families, the FAFSA is an important piece of the college financial journey, and the application is used to determine students’ eligibility for federal, state and institutional aid like grants and scholarships,” Chagas continued. “Given the weight of this year’s uncertainties, it’s critical that families apply as early as possible when the application becomes available, because some schools award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis.”

Discover Student Loans provides a number of free tools and resources that help families plan and navigate their college financing journey. Discover offers a FAFSA assistant tool which is an interactive resource designed to help families prepare to fill out their FAFSA application. After answering a few questions, the tool provides personalized tips and considerations to help families get organized for the process. Families can also refer to the FAFSA Do’s and Don’ts as an additional resource – all found on Discover’s College Covered website that provides helpful content to students, parents and counselors.

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


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from two Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI) surveys conducted on behalf of Discover Financial Services. The surveys were conducted online; the first one was fielded from March 9 – 19, 2020, with a total sample size of 1,500 U.S. parents of college bound students (ages 16 – 18), and the second survey was fielded from May 2 – 4, 2020, with a total sample size of 1,500 U.S. parents of college bound students (ages 16-18). The margin of sampling error for both surveys is ±2.53 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a digital 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 loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its 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 around the world. For more information, visit

1 FAFSA is a registered trademark of the U.S. Dept. of Education and is not affiliated with Discover Student Loans.

Media Contact
Sheetal Shah

Source: Discover Financial Services