INDIANAPOLIS — The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, helps determine how much aid money a student gets for college.
While some of the money comes in the form of loans, it also includes grants.
Eliza Haverstock with NerdWallet said the Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program offered to U.S. undergraduate students.
"It's need-based. It does not need to be repaid. So, it's basically free money to pay for college," Haverstock said.
But not everyone fills out the FAFSA.
As a result, an estimated $3.58 billion in Pell Grant money went unclaimed by the class of 2022 according to a study by the National College Attainment Network.
When broken down by state, Indiana is responsible for $69,417,059 of the unclaimed Pell Grants.
"If you're even considering enrolling in college next year, you know, fill it out," Haverstock said, "You might receive more aid opportunities than you expected."
Haverstock also wants to remind students and their families that they will need to fill out the FAFSA prior to their first year of college, and then they will need to do it every following year to make sure they are still eligible for aid.
The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-24 year is $7,395.
We reached out to the Department of Education about this NCAN study, and a spokesperson said, "The Department cannot confirm the accuracy of this external estimate."
The spokesperson went on to say, "The Department encourages all students to complete the FAFSA, which is free and serves as a one-stop shop to automatically apply for everything from grants and scholarships to work-study funds and loans from federal, state, and school sources.”