Applications for Financial Aid Lagging Among Low-Income Students

August 2020
Sabrina Solanki, Kevin Stange, Orlando Sanchez Zavala, Catherine Brown

Applications for federal and state financial aid for college are a leading indicator of how many students will enroll in and complete a college degree. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), a Michigan state scholarship program for low-income students, unlock some of the most substantial resources available to needy students in Michigan. This brief summarizes current FAFSA and TIP application behaviors of recent graduates from Michigan public schools.

Key findings

  1. The increased financial need of students due to the pandemic has not resulted in increased financial aid applications. Although rates remain similar to last year, overall FAFSA and TIP completion rates remain low, both close to 50%.
  2. Title I schools, which serve many disadvantaged students, have lower FAFSA completion rates than non-Title I schools in Michigan. This gap has narrowed only slightly from the previous year.
  3. TIP completion rates are also lower at Title I schools than non-Title I schools, and the gap has widened by 3 percentage points since 2019. The TIP completion gap grew even more between schools that had 50% or more of seniors that identify as Black and those that did not by as much as 8 percentage points.
  4. FAFSA and TIP completion rates vary substantially across regions and counties, which potentially illustrates the inequitable distribution of access to resources needed to successfully navigate the complex financial aid process.


University of Michigan

The Institute for College Access and Success


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