The upcoming FAFSA filing season begins October 1 and runs through June 30.

New research shows why parents don’t complete the FAFSA -- here’s what families of college bound kids should know

How America Pays for College

According to the How America Pays for College” survey from higher education lender Sallie Mae and its Ipsos research partner, most families wait until at least January to complete the form, this can mean leaving thousands of dollars in low-interest, potentially subsidized, federal loans on the table.

Free money, like grants or state-based aid and scholarships, is often offered on a first-come, first serve basis so the earlier families complete the FAFSA, the better. It’s best to check with school financial aid offices on their preferred financial aid forms and deadlines.

The 2019 online survey conducted by Ipsos, reached 1,000 respondents -- parents of children ages 18 to 24 enrolled as undergraduate students and 1,000 undergraduate students ages 18 to 24.

Only 77% of families in the survey submitted a FAFSA form.  Of those who don’t file the FAFSA:

  • 39% didn’t think they’d qualify,
  • 29% didn’t file because they didn’t know about it or missed the deadline,
  • 27% were missing information, didn’t have time or felt the process was too complicated
FAFSA Mason Jar Money Image


The survey uncovered a number of gaps in financial aid awareness. Of those who received financial aid,

  • 20% said they didn’t understand the terms and didn’t realize loans could be part of the aid package.
  • Some parents didn’t realize their financial aid package might only be good for one year, and that awards in future years might not keep up with higher college costs

What’s the problem? Many parents certainly would research the price of a new home, health insurance or a new car before signing a contract; investing in a college education is long-term and requires just as much if not more thought and research!

Other findings include:
  • Scholarships are the most widely used source to pay for college, with the funds covering about a third of college costs.
  • Only about 19% of survey respondents applied for scholarships available in their community, such as from employers, nonprofits and churches.
  • About two-thirds of families accepted whatever was offered in financial aid, while about 25% of families rejected part of the offer.

The good news...

In terms of education costs, one of the most positive answers from the survey was that more than 25% families have planned for all four years of college costs. The four year versus one year approach is important for families whose students may get a higher financial aid offer in the first year than the following three years.

The other piece of good news for families is that survey respondents with a child in college paid an average of $26,226 for the 2018-19 academic year, nearly the same as in 2017.

How we can help...

Check out LifePrep Academy's educational and financial aid resources for college bound students and their families.

The LifePrep guide is designed to connect busy parents to pertinent resources and support services to help them easily access FAFSA and other financial aid options.