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Washington students passed up free money, report says

Washington high school students didn’t claim roughly $54 million in possible federal Pell Grant money in 2014, according to an analysis by NerdWallet.

According to NerdWallet, a personal finance information service, the average amount of unclaimed Pell Grant money in Washington State per student was $1,646. Roughly, 50 percent of Washington State high school seniors didn’t complete the FAFSA application. Of those students, NerdWallet estimates 14,973 of those students would have been eligible for Pell Grant money. See the report here.

Nationally they say $2.7 billion was not claimed.

It’s an interesting analysis (although perhaps oversimplified, see below *), especially considering the rising cost of college tuition. It mirrors conversations I’ve had with different college officials who say one of the biggest challenges to would-be college applicants is simply not knowing about the financial support that is available.

It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with Principal Tricia Kannberg. Kannberg, who teaches at Regal Elementary in Spokane told me about a competition she’s implemented where students try to find the “wackiest scholarship.”

The goal, she says, is to show students and families that there are many ways to afford college, whether it’s four year, two year or technical education.

“I think there are some false impressions about whether people can afford college or not,” she says. “We are given a lot of opportunity. Don’t pass up on the opportunity.”

NerdWallet’s analysis is a good reminder of that.

*The blog outlining the analysis explains how they calculated their findings (which is helpful). However, there findings are based on estimations of how many graduating high school seniors would be eligible for the Pell Grant. As they say in their methodology section, “we assumed the rate of Pell-eligible recipients is the same for students who didn’t complete the FAFSA as for students who did.”

Which is totally fine and doesn’t discredit the analysis in my opinion, but does require a bit of viewer discretion. These results are estimates. Read their methodology report for yourself.




 




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Eli Francovich
Eli Francovich joined the Spokesman Review in 2015. He currently is the Outdoors reporter for the SR.

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