More than two-thirds of freshmen applied to just one school

Ramifications can last lifetime, Arne Duncan says

About two-thirds of incoming college freshmen applying for federal student aid only apply to one school, according to a report released by the Department of Education.

Not filling out FAFSA costs students $2.9 billion last year

In 2014-2015, about 68% of freshmen filling out the FAFSA only sent it to one college. While this number is down from 80% during the 2008-09 school year, applying to one school has "ramifications that can last a lifetime," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told U.S. News & World Report.

"That one school might be the right fit, but why take a chance?" Duncan said. "Why not consider multiple schools and increase your options and opportunities?"

Applying to only one school can force students to settle for a lackluster financial aid package, or—if not accepted—leave them stuck without a plan B.

Students who sent their FASFA to multiple schools were also more likely to apply earlier than those who did not. In the 2014-15 school year, 63% of students who reported at least two schools applied in the first quarter of the application cycle. The number increased to 75% for those who reported four schools, and 84% of applicants who reported 10—the maximum number allowed—applied in the first quarter.

Other findings

The quarterly report also looked at more financial aid trends:

  • About 17.1 million people filed the FAFSA for the 2015-16 school year, down 3.9% from the 2014-2015 cycle, which in turn were down 3% from 2013-2014;
  • Around 4.2 million people were enrolled in income-driven repayment plans as of September 2015, a 50% increase from September 2014 and 147% increase from September 2013;
  • More than 86% of direct loan deferments were due to continuing education, while hardship-related deferments have continued to decline; and
  • Almost 4 out of 5 non-defaulted direct loan borrowers are paying on time (Camera, U.S. News & World Report, 11/20; Department of Education release, 11/19).

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