UT Students Counter Financial Aid Trend

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee residents who apply for state lottery scholarships have an advantage in receiving federal financial aid, a University of Tennessee official said Monday.

“More Tennessee students are required fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, since it is the application the state uses for the Tennessee Hope Lottery Scholarship,” said Jeff Gerkin, UT assistant dean of financial aid.

Using the FAFSA for the state’s lottery scholarship is offsetting a national decline in federal financial aid applications, Gerkin said.

A study by the American Council on Education found that thousands of college students who may be eligible for federal financial aid are not receiving it because they don’t apply.

Students can send their FAFSA application results to multiple schools. UT saw a 175 percent increase during the spring semester over last year’s 22,000 FAFSA applications, because of the Hope scholarship. This was a large boost even though not all of these students enrolled at UT, Gerkin said.

The ACE study says that more than 850,000 U.S. students who would have been eligible for a Pell Grant failed to fill out the FAFSA.

Half of the 8 million undergraduates enrolled nationwide in 1999-2000 at institutions participating in federal student aid programs did not complete the form.

The study also indicates many students suffer by turning FAFSA forms in late. There is no deadline for federal aid like the Pell Grant, but many state and institutional sources require FAFSA submissions before April 1. The study found 55 percent of those who filed a FAFSA did so after that date.

UT promotes filling out the FAFSA through various workshops with parents and students, conferences with high school guidance counselors, and mailings from the financial aid office, Gerkin said.