A study conducted in December 2018 revealed that more students felt discouraged to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid because of the complicated process, which left $2.4 billion in federal grant money unused.
In addition, 15 percent of students “did not know they could complete a FAFSA,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Recent data from the DOE also revealed 24 percent of eligible students did not file for FAFSA. Of those students, 33 percent felt that they would not qualify for help anyway, according to the National Center for Education statistics.
“There is a lack of education surrounding the financial aid system,” said George Mailat, California Student Opportunity and Access Program coordinator. “We encounter lots of students who would have missed out on financial aid if we hadn’t encouraged them to apply.”
According to Mailat, cost is one of the primary reasons students do not attend postsecondary education, yet many students and their families fail to file their financial aid application.
While federal student aid makes loans more manageable and offers low interest rates, some students fear being in debt.
“I received financial aid in the form of a loan,” said former student Athena Mitchell. “I denied it because I didn’t want to take on student debt. I worked two jobs to be able to pay my tuition.”
Azucena Gutierrez, a second year criminal justice major, works several jobs in order to pay her tuition because she did not receive enough aid.
“The time I spend on campus is strictly for class,” Gutierrez said.“I don’t have time to join clubs, teams or anything like that.”
Despite the fact that the DOE encourages students to apply for FAFSA every year, students who apply for financial aid one year and do not get the money they need usually do not end up applying the following years.
Although there is some disappointment surrounding financial aid, there are students who benefit from it.
“I pretty much have college paid for,” said Guadalupe Perez, a third year student. “It has freed me up to be able to join clubs on campus.”
Some students who receive financial aid feel more at ease with their education because they are not worrying about how they will pay for college.
“My financial aid doesn’t cover all of my tuition,” said undeclared second year student Allan Rodriguez. “But it does cover some, which means I can work less hours and focus more time on school.”