Students miss out on aid

Students miss out on aid

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Associated Press

A new study says hundreds of thousands of college students who may be eligible for federal financial aid don't get it for a simple reason - they don't apply.

The study released Monday by the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities, says that half of the 8 million undergraduates enrolled in 1999-2000 at institutions participating in federal student aid programs did not complete the main federal aid application form.

Many were well off, and correctly assumed they wouldn't get aid. But the study found 1.7 million low- and moderate-income students also failed to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Two-thirds of community college students did not apply for aid, compared to 42 percent at public four-year colleges and 13 percent at private colleges.

The study concludes 850,000 of those students would have been eligible for a Pell Grant, the principal federal grant for low-income students.

The findings underscore a point often made by educators: Even as college costs rise, students often miss financial aid opportunities because they aren't aware of how the system works.

"It's frustrating when you know someone could be eligible and they just don't do it for various reasons," said Tammy Capps, financial aid director at Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill., where about 900 of the 2,500 students receive Pell Grants. She said complexity of the form is often a reason students don't apply.

"We'll even help them fill it out," she said. "But we have to talk to them face to face to give that information and that doesn't always happen. They don't think to call and ask."

The study acknowledges some poorer students might skip FAFSA forms because they line up adequate funding elsewhere. But Jacqueline Smith, director of ACE's Center for Policy analysis, said many would have ended up with more aid if they had filled out the form.

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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