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FAFSA filing trends of Minnesota students

One of the barriers to accessing higher education is financing the rising costs of tuition and student fees, yet many college students do not apply for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing the FAFSA can be a critical component accessing postsecondary education. The FAFSA is required to qualify for federal, state and most institutional financial aid.

The Office of Higher Education has examined the FAFSA filing patterns of Minnesota resident undergraduates who enrolled at a Minnesota postsecondary institution. The data looks at student-level enrollment information submitted to the agency by Minnesota institutions, and compares student enrollment with federal financial aid data to determine whether the student filed a FAFSA.

Recession impacts on FAFSA filing

The last economic recession had a direct impact on FAFSA filing. From 2008 to 2011, the percentage of Minnesota enrolled undergraduates filing the FAFSA increased by nearly 19%. During that same period, overall enrollment of Minnesota students increased by about 11%. Although enrollment levels have declined since 2011, FAFSA filing has remained stable. On average, from 2011 to 2018, nearly 81% of Minnesota resident students filed a FAFSA annually, compared with 68% in 2008.

Filing rates vary by institution sector. In 2018, students at Minnesota State Universities filed the FAFSA at the highest rate (83%), compared to other institutional sectors.

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Differences in FAFSA filing by student types

Within overall FAFSA filing trends, there are notable differences in FAFSA filing within different categories of students.

  • Female students typically file the FAFSA at higher rates than their male peers.
  • Students of color typically file the FAFSA at higher rates than their white peers. In 2018, Minnesota enrolled students of color had a FAFSA filing rate of around 88%, while white about 77% of white students filed a FAFSA.

Student type also plays a role in FAFSA filing rates.

  • New-entering undergraduates have the highest FAFSA filing rate of any other student type.
  • Transfer and continuing students who have previous coursework tend to file a FAFSA less often. This may be due in part to student expectations around financial aid. While new entering undergraduates may be less informed on whether they will qualify for financial aid, students who filed a FAFSA in the past and found they did not qualify for aid as a first-time student may be discouraged from filing a FAFSA in subsequent academic years.
  • Part-time students also file the FAFSA at lower rates than their full-time peers.

This pattern is also reflected in FAFSA filing rates by student age.

  • Students aged 19 or younger — the typical age of a traditional new-entering undergraduate — are more likely to file the FAFSA than older students.
  • Among students aged 20 or older, FAFSA filing rates are highest among the 23 to 34 age range. Students in this age group are more likely to have dependent children and a greater array of financial obligations, which may encourage them to apply for financial aid.
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Which counties have the highest FAFSA filing rate?

FAFSA filing rates vary by area. Typically, FAFSA filing rates of Minnesota college students from greater Minnesota are higher than those of their Metro area peers. In 2018, 82% of enrolled students from greater Minnesota filed a FAFSA, compared with a FAFSA filing rate of 76% for Metro area students.

This map shows the percent of students from each county that filed a FAFSA while enrolled at a Minnesota postsecondary institution. Click on the county to see which Minnesota institutions students enrolled at. Students who enrolled at an out-of-state college are not included in these totals.

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Minnesota High School FAFSA Data

Data from the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Data Centers provides statistics on the number of FAFSAs completed by the student's state of legal residence, prospective college of enrollment, and high school of enrollment.

Also see data from Minnesota's FAFSA Completion Initiative.


FAFSA Filing Rates of Minnesota Undergraduates (2019)

Increasing Student Awareness of the FAFSA (2011)

Minnesota Measures: FAFSA Filing Rates for First-Year Students (2011)