College Benefits for Homeless Students

Q: I know that homeless students can qualify for independent status on the FAFSA as well as priority registration. If a student qualifies as independent for the purposes of the FAFSA, based on their status as a homeless student, do they automatically qualify for priority registration as well? Is the reverse true?

A: As of January 1, 2020, AB 806 will expand the definition of homelessness used for priority registration to include students who become homeless after entering college as well as those who were homeless prior to college application. As such, most students who qualify as independent on the FAFSA based on homeless status will meet the eligibility criteria for priority registration. The one exception to this is that if a student qualifies on the FAFSA based on being “self-supporting and at-risk of becoming homeless” they may not qualify for priority registration.

Other than the “at-risk” qualification, both benefits rely on the McKinney-Vento definition of homelessness, namely that the student “lacks fixed, regular and adequate housing.” Key differences between the two benefits are as follows:

  • For FAFSA a student must be unaccompanied, whereas this is not the case for priority registration.
  • For FAFSA a student must have been homeless on or after July 1 of the year in which they are applying but for priority registration, a youth can have been homeless at any time during the 24 months prior to the college receiving their application or be currently homeless.
  • For FAFSA a student must reverify their status every year whereas for priority registration once a student is verified as homeless, they retain that status for a period of 6 years or until they reach age 25, whichever comes first.

Want to learn more about how to complete the FAFSA for a homeless student? Check out our recent webinar recording HERE.

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