Category Archives: Post-Secondary Education

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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Community College Assessment and Remediation

Q: Do students who are entering community college still need to take assessment tests in math and English to determine if they need to take remedial classes?

A: Under a new law, Assembly Bill 705 (Irwin), community colleges in California are required to use students’ high school grades as the primary means of placement rather than assessment tests, which are notoriously unreliable predictors. The law also restricts colleges from denying students access to transferable, college-level courses and gives students the right to begin in courses where they have the best chance of completing the English and math requirements for a bachelor’s degree.

A recent report from the Campaign for College Opportunity, however, found mixed results in how this law has been implemented. They looked at 47 community colleges in the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and greater Los Angeles. On the positive side, colleges have approximately doubled the proportion of transfer-level classes they offer. There has also been dramatic growth in the number of colleges offering corequisite remediation—that is, curricular models in which students receive additional support while enrolled in transferable, college-level classes. Most colleges are allowing all students to enroll directly in transferable, college-level courses, in compliance with the law, however, there are some exceptions.

At many colleges, however, remedial courses continue to constitute a large proportion of course offerings, especially in math, and students are not being fully informed both about the pros and cons of enrolling in remedial courses and their rights as defined in AB 705. Although expressly prohibited by new Title 5 regulations, some colleges still embed “readiness tests” deep within their guided placement tools.

It is crucial that, until the bill is fully implemented, professionals educate themselves and students about how to advocate to ensure that students are enrolling in courses that maximize their likelihood of success.

To read the full report, CLICK HERE. To read more about AB 705, follow this LINK.

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Eligibility Requirements for the 3rd Year THP-Plus Extension for Youth in School

Q: I am working with a youth who is interested in remaining in her THP-Plus program for the third year as part of the THP-Plus extension for youth enrolled in school, established in 2014 by Senate Bill 1252 (Torres). Are there any minimum GPA requirements for youth participating in the extension?

A: No, there are no Grade Point Average requirements for a youth to access THP-Plus for an additional 12 months or up to the age of 25. The THP-Plus extension for youth in school was established by Senate Bill 1252 (Torres) in 2014 and took effect January 1, 2015. Following are the eligibility requirements for the third-year THP-Plus extension:

  • Meet basic eligibility requirements for THP-Plus.
    • Have an order for out-of-home placement on 18th birthday; and
    • Enter into a Transitional Independent Living Plan (TILP) that shall be mutually agreed upon, and annually reviewed by the youth and county welfare or probation department or independent living coordinator.
  • Be completing a secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential or enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary education, including vocational education if from an accredited institution.

The THP-Plus extension for youth enrolled in school is optional for counties, however, once a county opts-in, the extension must be offered to all eligible youth, not applied on a case-by-case basis. Currently, 28 counties offer the extension. A list of these counties can be found here: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/thp-plus-extension/.

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Burton Book Fund

Q: I am working with a former foster youth who needs financial resources to purchase his college textbooks and course materials this semester. How do I find out which campuses are participating in the Burton Book Fund this year and help him apply?

A:  The list of participating campuses for the 2019-2020 Burton Book Fund can be found HERE. If the student’s campus is participating, have him/her reach out to the campus representative listed and meet with that person to submit an application to receive a $200 Burton Book Fund. For more information about the Burton Book Fund, please visit this PAGE.

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Foster Youth Residency Status Issue Fixed in CCCApply

Q: In the past, after completing the community college application on CCCApply, foster youth have sometimes been required to provide additional documentation to the admissions and records office at their college to prove residency status, even when they have never lived outside of California. Has anything been done to remove this barrier?

A: Yes, this barrier has been addressed by adding foster care as an exemption, described further below.

In CCCApply, students under the age of 19 are asked to provide information about a Parent/Guardian, which is used to determine residency status. When a student selects “guardian” rather than “mother” or “father,” a flag is triggered that requires the student to provide additional verification to the admissions and records office.

On the “Account Information” page (for students under 19 only) there is a list of criteria which exempt a student from needing to provide parent/guardian information (such as being married, active military, no living parent, etc.). Being “in foster care after your 13th birthday” is now included in this list of exemptions. If the student selects this, they are not asked for the name of a parent or guardian and their residency status will be determined based on their residency information rather than that of a parent or guardian.

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When Does Turning 26 Disqualify a Student from a Chafee Grant?

Q: I’m working with a college student, formerly in foster care who will be 26 in October. I understand the upper age limit for the Chafee Grant was extended to 26. Will this student be eligible to receive a Chafee for the 2019-20 academic year, or will turning 26 in the fall disqualify her?

A: She will still be eligible as long as she does not turn 26 by July 1, 2019, given she meets all other eligibility criteria. To qualify for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a current or former foster youth who was a ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least one day between the ages of 16 and 18.*
  • Have not reached their 26th birthday as of July 1st of the award year.
  • Have not participated in the program for more than five years (whether or not consecutive)

* If the student is/was in Kin-GAP, a non-related legal guardianship, or were adopted, they are eligible only if they were a dependent or ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least day between the ages of 16 and 18.

If she has not already done so, the student should submit a Chafee application as soon as possible. Although there is no deadline, the earlier she applies, the higher she is prioritized for funds. (Note she must also submit a FAFSA if she has not already). If she already submitted a Chafee application for previous years, she does not need to resubmit it.

Citation:

Assembly Bill 1811 (Committee on Budget, Human Services Omnibus, 2018) http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1811&search_keywords=chafee

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When Does Turning 26 Disqualify a Student from a Chafee Grant?

Q: I’m working with a college student, formerly in foster care who will be 26 in October. I understand the upper age limit for the Chafee Grant was extended to 26. Will this student be eligible to receive a Chafee for the 2019-20 academic year, or will turning 26 in the fall disqualify her?

A: She will still be eligible as long as she does not turn 26 by July 1, 2019, given she meets all other eligibility criteria. To qualify for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a current or former foster youth who was a ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least one day between the ages of 16 and 18.*
  • Have not reached their 26th birthday as of July 1st of the award year.
  • Have not participated in the program for more than five years (whether or not consecutive)

* If the student is/was in Kin-GAP, a non-related legal guardianship, or were adopted, they are eligible only if they were a dependent or ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least day between the ages of 16 and 18.

If she has not already done so, the student should submit a Chafee application as soon as possible. Although there is no deadline, the earlier she applies, the higher she is prioritized for funds. (Note she must also submit a FAFSA if she has not already). If she already submitted a Chafee application for previous years, she does not need to resubmit it.

Citation:

Assembly Bill 1811 (Committee on Budget, Human Services Omnibus, 2018) http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1811&search_keywords=chafee

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Independent Student Status on the FAFSA – Foster or Homeless Youth?

Q: I’m trying to help a 22-year-old young woman complete the FAFSA before the priority deadline of March 2. This young woman did spend time in foster care but is also currently homeless. In the dependency section, for the purposes of establishing independent student status, should she indicate her foster care history or her current homelessness status? I see you cannot indicate both. 

A: If the young woman was in foster care at any time since turning 13, she should check this box and be granted independent student status by way of her foster care history, instead of her homelessness status.

Homelessness determinations only last that upcoming school year, then require annual verification that the student was “an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or is self-supporting and at risk of being homeless” any time on or after July 1 of the year prior to the award year. However, youth who were in foster care or were dependents or wards of the court any time since turning 13 are considered independent students in subsequent years by way of their foster care history without having to re-verify.

The homeless youth determination process is also more cumbersome than the foster care verification process, which is now automated.

For help with assisting foster youth with completing the FAFSA, refer to JBAY’s Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth, which includes a Visual Guide.

For help with assisting homeless youth with completing the FAFSA, refer to JBAY’s Visual Guide to Assist Homeless Youth with Completing the FAFSA.

Citation: 2018-19 Federal Student Aid Handbook, Application and Verification Guide (https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf)

 

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IRS Verification of Nonfiling

Q: Last year, students who submitted a FAFSA but hadn’t filed a tax return were required to submit a “verification of nonfiling letter” from the IRS. This was a very onerous requirement and students struggled to obtain the documentation. Have there been any changes to this requirement to make it easier?

A: The Department of Education issued a notice recently outlining some changes to these requirements. According to the notice, institutions now have greater flexibility when verifying a student’s nonfiling status. The notice states that if the individual is unable to obtain verification from the IRS or other tax authorities and, based upon the institution’s determination, it has no reason to question the student’s good-faith effort to obtain the required documentation, the institution may accept a signed statement certifying that the individual attempted to obtain the verification and was unable to obtain the documentation along with W-2 forms from any source of employment income.

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List of Counties that Have Opted into the THP-Plus Extension

Q: I’m currently nearing the end of my 24 months in the THP-Plus program. I’m working on getting my AA degree, and would really like to stay in the program until I finish. I’ve heard that some counties allow youth to remain in THP-Plus for an additional 12 months if they are in school. How do I find out whether my county offers this?

A: You are correct. Senate Bill 1252 (Torres) established the option for counties to extend their THP-Plus programs for youth enrolled in school for an additional 12 months and up to the age of 25. This law went into effect January 1, 2015.

Currently, 27 counties have opted into the THP-Plus extension. These counties are listed, along with additional information about the THP-Plus extension on the JBAY website at the following URL: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/thp-plus-extension/

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