Only thirty-four percent of high school students in the state fill out FAFSA forms, the lowest number in the nation.
“It’s estimated that we are leaving on the table about forty five million dollars a year that could be available to Utah college students to help pay for tuition,” said Dave Buhler, Utah commissioner of higher education.
Buhler said possible reasons for this include students may not think it is worth their while to fill out the forms and they may think the applications are for loans that need to eventually be paid off.
“But in this case, with the Pell Grants, they do not need to be paid back,” Buhler said. “So it’s definitely worth something for students to look into and to put in an application and then see if they’re eligible.”
Patti Kohler, director of the Utah State University financial aid office, said the low number reflects the students who complete a FAFSA form right after high school graduation. She said that number aside, Utah is one of the higher states for Pell grant recipients.
Kohler said she does not know the exact reason for this, but a possible explanation may be the large population of students who serve two-year religious missions right after high school and then fill out the forms when they return.
“We do have older students who complete the FAFSA — more than some of our incoming freshmen — just due to the fact of we do have that uniqueness in the state,” Kohler said.
There is another reason students may not take out Pell grants as explained by two USU students.
“I don’t know how a Pell Grant works,” Markus West said.
“Yeah, I don’t know how they work either,” Ethan Benowitz added.
Alecia Parker, another USU student, said she has thought of taking out Pell grants.
“But I don’t know where to begin,” she said.
Buhler said he does not know why there are forty-five million dollars that students are not claiming, but the Utah System of Higher Education is trying to encourage them to look at all options to help fund their college education.
More information about Utah FAFSA completion can be found here.