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FAFSA® Completion Rates Stabilizing but Three-Quarters of Families Unaware It’s Available on October 1, According to “How America Pays for College 2022”

Families Paid Slightly Less for College Last Year, and Covered Majority of Costs Out of Pocket; Four in 10 Families Borrowed, Covering 18% of College Costs

Majority of Families Believe College is Important Investment and Creates More Opportunities; Importance of the “College Experience” at 10-Year High

Seven in 10 (70%) families reported completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) for academic year 2021-22, but three-quarters were unaware the FAFSA® is available starting in October, potentially leaving thousands in first-come, first-served free money on the table, according to “How America Pays for College 2022,” the annual study from Sallie Mae® and Ipsos.

The FAFSA® is the gateway to accessing more than $112 billion in grants, scholarships, and federal financial aid for higher education and states and colleges rely on information from the FAFSA® to determine need-based aid. Six years ago, the Department of Education moved the FAFSA® application start date from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1 to give families more time to complete it and better understand their financial aid eligibility earlier in the college application process. Despite those efforts, 75% of families are still unaware of the Oct. 1 open date, and only a little over half of families (54%) know all students are eligible to submit the FAFSA®.

“The good news is FAFSA® completion rates seem to be holding steady although we’d love to see those rates even higher. The lack of awareness about the open date, however, and continued confusion around eligibility is cause for concern,” said Rick Castellano, vice president, Sallie Mae. “The reality is, just about every family qualifies for some form of aid so we need to continue to educate and inform families that completing the FAFSA can help make college more affordable, especially for those families who need the most support.”

Families reported spending $25,313, on average, on college expenses in academic year 2021-22 with 87% relying on income and savings to cover 54% of college expenses. Scholarships and grants were used by 73% of families and covered 26% of costs, and four in 10 (41%) families reported borrowing for college, covering 18% of costs. For those students who reported borrowing, the amount they borrowed was up 7% to $9,381.

Families agree college is an investment in the student’s future (88%) and earning a college degree will create more opportunities (88%). While nearly eight in 10 families (78%) are willing to stretch financially to send their student to college, nine in 10 families (89%) took active steps to make college more affordable. More than half of families (59%) have a plan to pay for all years of college, and the percentage of families (61%) who said they would have their student attend college for the social and intellectual experiences alone is at a 10-year high.

“Everyone experienced a significant upheaval two years ago and, as result, many people re-evaluated their priorities,” said Jennifer Berg, director, Ipsos. “College students and their families are prioritizing the experiences and social aspects of college that they may feel like they have been missing. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve deprioritized the academic aspect of college or their expected return on investment.”

Two years after the start of the pandemic, seven in 10 students (73%) reported taking at least some online classes and three-quarters (75%) reported the online learning experience to be “good” or “excellent.” Still, most families (78%) want their student to be back on campus for in-person classes at least some of the time.

“How America Pays for College 2022” reports the results of online interviews of 952 undergraduate students and 953 parents of undergraduate students by Ipsos between April 5-May 4, 2022.

To access the complete “How America Pays for College 2022” report visit

Sallie Mae (Nasdaq: SLM) believes education and life-long learning, in all forms, help people achieve great things. As the leader in private student lending, we provide financing and know-how to support access to college and offer products and resources to help customers make new goals and experiences, beyond college, happen. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

Ipsos is a global independent market research company ranking third worldwide among research firms. At Ipsos, we are passionately curious about people, markets, brands, and society. We make our changing world easier and faster to navigate and inspire clients to make smarter decisions. We deliver research with security, speed, simplicity, and substance. We believe it’s time to change the game — it’s time for Game Changers! Visit to learn more.

Category: Student Loans

Category: How America Pays for College

Category: FAFSA


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