FAFSA Report

FAFSA Report

COVID on Track to Claim Another Class of College Freshmen

Across the nation, 143K fewer high school seniors have applied for federal student aid this year


The percentage of eligible students who have applied for federal financial aid in 2020


The percentage reduction in eligible students applying for financial aid in 2020 vs. 2019


The number of states which have seen a reduction in federal aid applications in 2020

As the cost of college continues to increase, financial aid becomes ever more important. While many factors are involved in the decision to attend college, a strong correlation exists between FAFSA completion and college enrollment. TOP Data found a 9.7% decrease in FAFSA applications in 2020, signaling that another “lost class” of freshmen is possible in the fall of 2021. This would be a massive blow to the education industry, which already saw enrollment dip by 22% in 2020.

Percentage of High School Seniors Completing Financial Aid in 2020

Data shows that the number of eligible high school seniors applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has reduced by 9.7% in 2021 compared to 2020. If the reduction in applications is reflected in enrollment numbers next fall, then 2021 looks to be equally as challenging for colleges as 2020 has been.

The decline in applications is even more noticeable when focussing on students that attend high minority high schools, which have seen a 15% reduction this year.

Decrease in High School Seniors Applying for Financial Aid

147,561 fewer students have applied for financial aid in 2020 compared to 2019

State-level data shows that the southern states, in particular, have seen significant application reductions. West Virginia had the biggest downturn in applications with a 22% reduction, while Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky all saw a reduction of over 18%.

State Breakdown


TOP Data analyzed the number of submitted and completed FAFSAs among first-time filing applicants no older than 19. For each high school, the number of submitted and completed applications is reported for the current application cycle (2020-2021) and the same time period last year for the previous application cycle (2019-2020).

The data is broken down by state to calculate FAFSA completion rates for both cycles as well as state-level maps presenting this data.

Data currently posted covers applications processed through Jan. 29.