Less Than Half of Parents with College-Bound Students Report They Have Completed the FAFSA

RIVERWOODS, Ill.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forty six percent of parents with college-bound students report that
they have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)1,
according to a survey commissioned by Discover
Student Loans
. The survey also showed that nearly a quarter (22
percent) of students currently in college or recently graduated said
they don’t know what the FAFSA is.

Why parents and students chose not to complete

The beliefs that they would not qualify or didn’t need federal aid were
the primary reasons both parents and students chose not to complete the

  • 50 percent of parents with students currently in school or recently
    graduated said they didn’t fill it out because they felt they wouldn’t
    qualify for federal aid. When this segment of students were asked, 35
    percent reported not filling it out because they felt they wouldn’t
  • 42 percent of students in college or recently graduated didn’t fill it
    out because they felt they didn’t need federal aid.

Regional differences exist

Views on the ability to qualify and whether or not survey respondents
need financial aid varied geographically. In the South, 62 percent of
parents of current or recently graduated students did not apply for the
FAFSA because they didn’t believe they would qualify versus 38 percent
in the West. Sixty-seven percent of current or recently graduated
students from the Northeast said they didn’t fill out the FAFSA because
they didn’t need to apply for federal aid versus 25 percent in the West.

“Filling out the FAFSA is a critical step in the college financing
process since schools use it to determine eligibility for federal, state
and institutional aid, including grants and scholarships,” said Nicole
Straub, vice president for Discover Student Loans. “The FAFSA becomes
available October 1 and families should plan to fill it out every year a
student is in school, even if they feel they won’t qualify or don’t need
the aid, because most people will be eligible for some aid.”

According to the National
Center for Education Statistics
, about 72 percent of undergraduate
students received some form of financial aid, which includes grants,
federal student loans, and work-study.2

Who is actually filling out the FAFSA?

The survey responses show that parents and students aren’t taking the
opportunity to fill out the FAFSA together.

  • Less than a quarter of parents with college-bound teens responded
    saying they filled out the FAFSA with their child.
  • 43 percent of parents with students in college or recently graduated
    reported that they or another parent filled out the FAFSA themselves.

“It’s important for parents and students to communicate early and often
about paying for college, and the FAFSA should be a part of those
conversations,” said Straub. “If families work together to fill out the
FAFSA, review their award letters and create a plan to pay for college,
it can minimize any surprises and help everyone understand their future
financial responsibilities.”

Discover Student Loans offers tools and resources to help parents and
students understand the college financing process. Discover Student
Loans provides private student loans and is not affiliated with the
FAFSA or federal financial aid. For more information about Discover
Student Loans, please visit www.discover.com/student-loans.

1 FAFSA is a registered service mark of the U.S. Department
of Education.

About the Survey

The Discover Student Loans national online survey of 2,015 students,
former students and parents in the United States was conducted between
April 26 – May 7, 2018. Four similar surveys were administered among
specific target audiences, by Research Now, an independent survey
research firm. Target audiences included Parents of “College Bound”
Students (age 16-18); Parents of Current and Former (Recently-graduated,
age 18-24); Current and Former (Recently-graduated, age 18-24) Students.
The margin of sampling error was +/-3 percentage points with a 95
percent level of confidence.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment
services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S.
financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become
one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues
the Discover card, America’s cash rewards pioneer, and offers private
student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, checking and savings
accounts and certificates of deposit through its direct banking
business. It operates the Discover Global Network comprised of Discover
Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one
of the nation’s leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club
International, a global payments network with acceptance in 190
countries and territories. For more information, visit www.discover.com/company.


Rob Weiss
Discover Financial Services