According to a recent U.S. News and World Reports article, more students than ever are applying for financial aid–by a long shot. This year, the number of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms filed in the United States jumped a whopping 17 percent! There were 1.3 million more applications than last year–in a year where college enrollment is only expected to grow by about 300,000 students. That means there’s somewhere around 1 million new applications for financial aid this year that aren’t the result of growing enrollment numbers.
So why is this happening? A big part of this, of course, is the state of the economy. The price of tuition is rising quicker than people’s incomes. This means that students who might not have qualified for financial aid before now qualify. Additional students also have been qualifying for financial aid because of declining home prices, which affect how much money students are eligible to receive. And of course, as unemployment rises, so does the number of people who can no longer afford college on their own.
There’s some good news, though. The rise in financial aid applications isn’t just indicative of a poor economy; it also indicates that more people are going to the trouble of filling out the intimidating FAFSA form–especially now that’s it can be filed out online. The word is getting out to students and parents that you need to fill out a FAFSA, even if you don’t think you’re eligible.