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FAFSA statistics: What is the average financial aid for college?

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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that college students need to fill out yearly to receive federal or state financial aid. The application for the 2022-23 academic year opened on Oct. 1, 2021, and will close on June 30, 2023.

While some families choose not to file the FAFSA, many would be surprised at how much financial aid is available. Here’s a breakdown of what type of aid is offered and how much you could receive.

FAFSA statistics

  • For 2018-19, the National Center for Education Statistics found that the average grant and scholarship aid for full-time students at four-year institutions was $13,690.
  • According to Sallie Mae, only 68 percent of families submitted the FAFSA for 2020-21.
  • The same Sallie Mae report found that 29 percent of families who received a financial aid offer appealed for more aid, and 71 percent of those appeals were granted.
  • Federal Student Aid data shows that approximately 20 million FAFSAs are submitted each year, but that number is on a steady decline.

What percentage of students receive financial aid?

Each federal financial aid package is unique; it’s based on factors like the student’s enrollment status, the student’s expected family contribution and the school’s cost of attendance. For example, private colleges may offer more financial aid than public schools, but that’s because private schools typically have a much higher cost of attendance.

Financial aid awards by institution

Enrolled undergraduate students awarded financial aid (public institutions) Enrolled undergraduate students awarded financial aid (private nonprofit institutions)
2018-19
81.5%
90.3%
2017-18
81.4%
90.3%
2016-17
80.3%
89.9%
2015-16
80.1%
89.6%
2014-15
81.0%
89.6%
2010-11
78.9%
89.4%
2005-06
70.6%
85.3%
2000-01
65.4%
82.6%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Full-time undergraduates awarded financial aid by race/ethnicity

2015-16 2011-12 2007-08 2003-04 1999-2000
White
85.7%
82.6%
78.1%
73.3%
69.9%
Black
95.5%
94%
82.1%
88.7%
88%
Hispanic
89%
88.3%
84.3%
78.8%
77.1%
Asian
71.3%
71.4%
69.5%
65.1%
60.3%
Pacific Islander
90.1%
82.1%
81.4%
71.1%
62.3%
American Indian/Alaska Native
92.2%
93%
85.9%
81.1%
81.5%
Two or more races
88.6%
85.8%
83.4%
77.1%
75.6%
Other
N/A
N/A
79.8%
72.2%
61.9%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

FAFSA filing statistics

All U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens can fill out the FAFSA. And aid is not limited to graduating high schoolers and undergraduates; students from all walks of life and pursuing many types of degrees may qualify for aid.

According to data from Federal Student Aid, of those who filed a FAFSA for the 2019-20 academic year:

  • 62 percent are female students and 38 percent are male students.
  • 47 percent are first-generation college students.
  • 11 percent are 18 years old or younger, and 41 percent are age 25 or older.
  • 13 percent are pursuing a graduate or professional degree.
  • 24 percent have never attended college before.
  • 48 percent are considered dependent students, while 52 percent are independent students.

FAFSAs submitted year over year

The number of FAFSAs submitted since 2010 has decreased steadily. FAFSA submissions for the 2019-20 school year were the lowest they’ve been since 2008-09, and recent data from the National College Attainment Network predicts an even further decline through 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of higher education could both contribute to the decline in FAFSA applications, with many students dropping out of college or choosing to pursue other options.

Here’s a breakdown of FAFSAs submitted per year:

Year Number of FAFSAs submitted
2019-20
18,086,485
2018-19
18,535,732
2017-18
18,969,616
2016-17
18,741,055
2015-16
19,757,764
2014-15
20,561,929
2013-14
21,193,753
2012-13
21,804,708
2011-12
21,949,308
2010-11
21,116,700
2009-10
19,490,666

Source: Federal Student Aid

Financial aid by state

States offer their own grant and scholarship opportunities to residents. Many of these are available through the FAFSA, though others require a separate application. Check your state’s grant agency for more information on available opportunities.

State Average available state aid per undergraduate in 2017-18
Alabama
$562.57
Alaska
$732.88
Arizona
$98.06
Arkansas
$1,209.25
California
$1,915.14
Colorado
$497.95
Connecticut
$310.57
Delaware
$351.39
Florida
$786.15
Georgia
$2,318.61
Hawaii
$153.00
Idaho
$130.10
Illinois
$1,312.34
Indiana
$1,392.01
Iowa
$470.84
Kansas
$165.43
Kentucky
$1,770.50
Louisiana
$2,288.65
Maine
$321.24
Maryland
$594.86
Massachusetts
$347.25
Michigan
$379.89
Minnesota
$1,151.57
Mississippi
$471.78
Missouri
$575.85
Montana
$12.90
Nebraska
$285.15
Nevada
$457.10
New Hampshire
$0.08
New Jersey
$2,272.59
New Mexico
$1,733.99
New York
$1,391.83
North Carolina
$1,188.63
North Dakota
$479.21
Ohio
$334.52
Oklahoma
$861.67
Oregon
$777.69
Pennsylvania
$982.30
Rhode Island
$182.86
South Carolina
$3,114.73
South Dakota
$149.58
Tennessee
$2,436.06
Texas
$1,143.01
Utah
$54.42
Vermont
$534.40
Virginia
$1,520.98
Washington
$1,219.53
Washington, D.C.
$646.45
West Virginia
$864.66
Wisconsin
$601.30
Wyoming
N/A

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. These numbers do not account for state assistance through subsidized tuition.

Types of federal financial aid

Most federal financial aid is need-based, determined using a student’s expected family contribution, but some aid is available to all students. In general, grants and work-study are based on need, while loans are not. Here are some of the types of financial aid you may receive through the FAFSA:

  • Grants: Grants are a type of free money typically distributed to students who demonstrate financial need. There are four major federal grants available through the FAFSA: the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant and the TEACH Grant.
  • Loans: Federal student loans can cover most educational expenses and are typically repaid over a period of 10 years. There are three main types: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans. Subsidized loans are the only type limited to students with financial need.
  • Work-study: The federal work-study program allows students to work a part-time job while attending school. Students who qualify typically work an on-campus job and use the money they earn on school-related expenses.

The bottom line

The amount of federal financial aid that each student receives is unique to their financial background, but the U.S. Department of Education claims that most U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens qualify for some amount of aid. The truth is, it’s impossible to know what and how much you’ll qualify for without submitting the FAFSA. Filling out the form takes most students less than an hour, and the time investment could very well be worth it. To apply, head to the Federal Student Aid website and either log in with your FSA ID or start a new form.

Learn more:

Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor