1 in 5 undergrads don’t apply for financial aid because they believe they won’t qualify or don’t need it

According to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 1 in 5 college undergraduates don’t apply for financial aid because they believe they would not qualify, or they think they can afford school and don’t want debt.

The NCES report was based on data from the 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), a national survey that collects data on what grants, loans or other types of aid students apply for and receive. NPSAS includes data on the application for and receipt of financial aid, including grants, loans, assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, tuition waivers and discounts, veteran’s benefits, employer aid, and other monies (other than from relatives or friends) students use to meet expenses.

Percentage distribution of undergraduates’ financial aid application status, by type of institution (2011-12)


Graph from NCES report

Who didn’t apply for aid:

  • Overall, 20% of undergraduate students did not apply for any financial aid in 2011–12.
  • 30% of students in public 2-year institutions and 18% of those in public 4-year institutions did not apply for aid.
  • 10% of undergraduates had not applied for federal student aid, but had applied for or received college grants or scholarships.

Why students did not apply for aid:

  • The most cited reasons for not applying for aid were that students thought they could afford college without aid, or thought they were ineligible for aid.
  • Overall, 43% to 46% of undergraduates who did not apply for student aid thought they were ineligible.
  • The least cited reason for not applying for aid was that the financial aid form was too much work.
  • Concern about taking on debt was reported more frequently as a reason for not applying for aid by students in public 4-year institutions than by students in other types of institutions.
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Trisha Dugovic
Communications Director