Consider this scenario: a student receives a Pell Grant for his or her freshman year of college. That student proceeds to do well in school, with at least a 3.0 GPA. However, when it comes time to file the FAFSA (necessary for accessing another year of Pell Grant funds) during their freshman year, the student skips the process.

Seems strange, right? That’s what some researchers think, too.


In a working paper discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, two researchers investigated why some students don’t file. In fact, 18.5% of Pell Grant recepients don’t reapply for financial aid or full out the FAFSA. Nearly half of those students don’t return to college in the fall. However, even if we were to table research on the non returning students, it seems baffling that students who benefited from filling out the FAFSA would choose not to do so before returning to school for their sophomore year.

The evidence is still being gathered on what exactly is happening in these scenarios, as is the nature of the relationship is between choosing to not file for aid and dropping out. It does seem that choosing not to refile is a correlative factor in student failure to persist to a degree; one conclusion of the report is that those non-re-filing students who return to school for a sophomore year are significantly less likely than re-filing students are to persist to their junior year.

This will likely be an area of continued research, as the researchers will want to better discern the relationship of these student actions. In addition, the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that some of the research on this topic is likely to be focused on how to remind and convince students to reapply for financial aid.