Almost 18 million students file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. The following are FAFSA Application Statistics, including the number of FAFSAs filed, who files the FAFSA, and the impact on financial aid.

Number of FAFSAs

A total of 17.7 million students filed the FAFSA in 2019-2020, down from the peak of 21.9 million applicants in 2011-2012. 

About a third of undergraduate graduate students do not file the FAFSA. Of students who do not file the FAFSA, 2 million would have qualified for a Federal Pell Grant. 

This table shows the top ten states by the number of FAFSAs filed in 2019-2020.

State of ResidenceNumber of 
FAFSAs
California   2,405,939
Texas                                              1,596,986
Florida                       1,194,684
New York                      1,043,814
Georgia                       690,381
Illinois                      684,993
Pennsylvania                  598,549
Ohio                          584,298
North Carolina                561,144
Michigan                      524,969

This chart shows the number of FAFSAs submitted each year, from 1997-1998 through 2019-2020. 

Timing of the FAFSA

Of students who file the FAFSA, less than a third file the FAFSA during the first three months, from October 1 through December 31, and about half in the first six months. 

Students who file the FAFSA in the first three months tend to get twice as many grants, on average, as compared with students who file the FAFSA later.

Who Files the FAFSA?

Three quarters (74%) of female students file the FAFSA, compared with two-thirds (65%) of male students. Overall, this means that 61% of FAFSAs are filed by female students and 39% by male students.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of low-income students file the FAFSA, compared with two-thirds (65%) of middle-income students and 59% of high-income students. More than half (57%) of FAFSAs are filed by students who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant.

About half (48%) of FAFSAs are filed by first-generation college students.

Four-fifths (80%) of full-time students file the FAFSA, compared with almost two-thirds (64%) of part-time students. 

Of freshmen filing the FAFSA, 61% apply to just one college.

More than three quarters (77%) of dependent students file the FAFSA, compared with two-thirds (64%) of independent students. 

Two thirds (64%) of veterans file the FAFSA, compared with 71% of students who are not veterans. 

This chart shows the percentage of students who file the FAFSA by race. Three quarters (74%) of minority students file the FAFSA, compared with two-thirds (67%) of White students.

Race% Filing the FAFSA
White67%
Black or African American83%
Hispanic or Latino74%
Asian54%
American Indian or Alaska Native77%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander68%
More than One Race74%

Impact of College Affordability on Filing the FAFSA

As the cost of attendance increases as a percentage of income, more students file the FAFSA. If the cost of attendance is less than 25% of income, more than half (54%) of students file the FAFSA. This increases to 75% of students for whom the cost of attendance is a quarter to half of income and to 80% for students for whom the cost of attendance is more than half of income.

But, students at lower-cost colleges are less likely to file the FAFSA.

About three-quarters of students at public and private non-profit 4-year colleges file the FAFSA, compared with 62% of students at community colleges and 88% of students at for-profit colleges. 

Two thirds (65%) of students at colleges with tuition and fees under $8,000 file the FAFSA, compared with 79% of students at more-expensive colleges.

Use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is limited. 

Only a third of parents of dependent students who filed the FAFSA in 2017-2018 and who had already filed a federal income tax return used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. 

Only about a quarter of the students who had already filed a federal income tax return used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

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