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Short Title

Predictors of Timely FAFSA Completion

Abstract

Access to financial aid is dependent on a variety of factors, including the time of application; the earlier students apply for financial aid, the greater their access to institutional and often state resources. We use the Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) as a case for investigating the economic, social, and academic factors that affect application timeliness, and in turn, access to need-based financial aid. We analyze a stratified sample of 4,000 low-income students who completed the 2003-04 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and assess the relationships between Expected Family Contribution (EFC), first-generation status, and academic performance in order to understand the likelihood that low-income students will complete the FAFSA in time to qualify for need-based financial aid. The findings indicate that there are significant differences in the timeliness of FAFSA completion among low-income students that could qualify for a MAP grant; students with a slightly higher EFC are more likely to complete the FAFSA in time to qualify for need-based aid. Additionally, students who had at least one parent who attended college and who had higher academic performance in high school are significantly more likely to complete the FAFSA before critical deadlines and qualify for need-based financial aid. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these findings.