Category Archives: Post-Secondary Education

Chafee Application Now Available to Youth Up to Age 26

Q: I heard that the age eligibility for the Chafee grant has been increased so that older youth in college can receive a Chafee grant. When is this going to become available?

A: You are correct. Eligibility for the Chafee grant in California has been expanded so that youth can apply for Chafee if they have not reached their 26th birthday as of July 1st of the award year, and are otherwise Chafee-eligible.*

Funding for the eligibility expansion was included in the 2018-19 State Budget. While the changes to eligibility were included in a budget trailer bill (AB 1811), taking immediate effect on July 1, 2018, students meeting the expanded eligibility requirements were not able to apply for Chafee until October 2018. The updated application is now available at:   https://www.chafee.csac.ca.gov/StudentApplication.aspx.

*To qualify for a Chafee grant, you 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.
  • If you are/were in Kin-GAP, a non-related legal guardianship, or were adopted, you are eligible only if you were a dependent or ward of the court, living in foster care, for at least one day between the ages of 16 and 18.
  • Have not reached your 26th birthday as of July 1st of the award year.
  • Have not participated in the program for more than 5 years (whether or not consecutive).

Pursuant to Assembly Bill 2506, starting with the 2017-18 award year, you can only receive your Chafee Grant if you attend a school that is either of the following:

  • A qualifying institution that is eligible for participation in the Cal Grant Program.
  • An institution that is not located in California with a three-year cohort default rate that is less than 15.5 percent and a graduation rate greater than 30 percent.

Citation:

 

CalFresh Student Eligibility: Approved Programs to Increase Employability

Q: I understand that participation in certain foster youth campus support programs can exempt youth from the CalFresh eligibility restrictions placed on college students. What if a former foster youth enrolled in college is participating in a campus support program that is not named in ACL 15-70, ACL 17-05 or the state’s additional list of exempting programs to increase employability, but essentially provides the same services as Guardian Scholars-type programs?

A: A program not currently on the California Department of Social Services’ (CDSS) list of eligible programs may submit a request to add their program by completing the form provided by CDSS, “Request for Approval of Local Educational Programs that Increase Employability.” This form can be found by visiting: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/CalFresh-Resource-Center / “Policy Guidance” / “More Guidance.” For CDSS’ list of eligible programs, go to http://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/CalFresh-Resource-Center and click on “CalFresh Student Eligibility: Approved Programs to Increase Employability.”

To be defined as a program to increase employability, the program must assist in gaining the skills, training, work, or experience that will increase the student’s ability to obtain regular employment, such as job retention, job search, job search training, work experience, workfare, vocational training, self-employment training, on-the-job training and education.

This question and answer are included in JBAY’s newly updated Frequently Asked Questions: Non-Minor Dependents & CalFresh document. Download the FAQ HERE.

Citation:

California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 15-70 (September 17, 2015). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/lettersnotices/EntRes/getinfo/acl/2015/15-70.pdf.

California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 17-05 (February 14, 2017). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2017/17-05.pdf?ver=2017-02-15-111331-970.

 

Chafee Grant Application Deadline

Q: I submitted my FAFSA a few months ago and my college has already packaged my financial aid. I didn’t realize that I could qualify for a Chafee grant and so didn’t apply. Is it too late for me to apply since college has already started?

A: It is not too late. There is no deadline for submitting a Chafee grant application and the application can be submitted any time during the school year. Chafee funds of up to $5000 are available to students enrolled at least half time who were in foster care between the ages of 16 and 18. In order to qualify you must submit both a FAFSA (or California Dream Act Application) and a separate Chafee application. Although funds are distributed at the beginning of the school year, some students do not enroll and these funds are returned and continue to be distributed throughout the year as long as there are funds available.

Even if you do not get awarded funds this year, applying now will make it more likely that you will qualify next year, so the sooner you can submit your application the better.

Note that currently you must not have reached your 22nd birthday as of July 1st of the award year, however this age limit is in the process of being increased to age 26.

Mobile-friendly FAFSA

Q: Is it possible for me to fill out the FAFSA on my smartphone or do I need to have access to a computer?

A: Yes, it is now possible for you to fill out the FAFSA easily on your phone. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) launched a mobile-friendly version of the FAFSA last month at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The DOE plans to roll out a beta version of a student aid mobile app soon that would let financial aid recipients complete the FAFSA application as well as make loan payments and complete other financial aid tasks. A complete version of the mobile app is set to launch October 1, 2018 in time for the beginning of the 2019-20 federal student aid cycle. According to the DOE, the October release will include even more functions for the mobile app — it will be linked to the IRS data retrieval tool, it will allow for comparisons of aid packages for different schools and applicants will be able to transfer information to state aid applications.

Resources for Students with Disabilities

Q: I am helping a student with learning disabilities who will be attending community college in the fall. Are there any resources available for her as a student with a disability?

A: Yes, every community college campus has a Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) office. She will need to provide evidence that she has a disability in order to qualify for their services. The DSPS program provides support services, specialized instruction, and educational accommodations to students with disabilities so that they can participate as fully and benefit as equitably from the college experience as their non-disabled peers. Examples of services available through DSPS that are over and above those regularly offered by the college would be test-taking facilitation, assessment for learning disabilities, specialized counseling, interpreter services for hearing-impaired or deaf students, mobility assistance, note taker services, reader services, transcription services, specialized tutoring, access to adaptive equipment, job development/placement, registration assistance, special parking and specialized instruction.

You can find a list of DSPS for each campus here.

Getting Chafee if You Have an Overpayment

Q: Can a student still receive a Chafee grant if they have an outstanding Pell grant overpayment or a loan in default?

A: Yes, a student can receive a Chafee grant even if they have an outstanding Pell grant overpayment or a loan in default. The requirements for the Chafee grant vary somewhat from the Pell grant requirements, and Chafee grants are not held as a result of an outstanding federal Pell grant overpayment or loan default. Eligibility for a Chafee grant differs in a couple other ways from that of a Pell grant as well – students are not required to meet selective service requirements (i.e. draft registration) in order to qualify for a Chafee grant and do not need a high school diploma to be eligible.

IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter

Q: I assisted an 18-year-old with her FAFSA. She reported on her FAFSA that she didn’t file taxes, but is now being asked by her college to submit an IRS Verification of Nonfiling Letter. I’ve never heard of this form before. How do I assist the student with submitting it? 

A: The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior” year tax data, so for the 2018-2019 school year, 2016 taxes would be used. Many students do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. Students applying for the 2018-2019 academic school year who did not file taxes may now be required to submit an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter. This letter confirms that the IRS has not received a federal income tax return from the individual. The Verification of Nonfiling Letter is not an indication that the person is not required to file a return, just that they did not file one.

To obtain an IRS Verification of NonFiling Letter, the student will need to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript. This can be a complicated process and many students will need assistance.

1. A student can request their transcript online at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript. Through this website the student can either have their transcript sent to them online or via mail.

  • To obtain a transcript online, the student must satisfy certain security requirements such as owning a cell phone with their name on the account and having a credit card, auto loan or mortgage in their name. These requirements may be difficult for many students to satisfy and therefore they may need to request their transcript be sent to them via mail.
  • To have the transcript mailed via the online tool, it will take 5-10 days to receive the tax transcript. Generally, there will be no address on file with the IRS if the student has never filed taxes. In this case, the letter will be mailed to the current address they provide. However, the IRS may already have the student’s address in their system, such as from W-2 or 1099 statements or a prior tax return. In this case, the mailing address on the form must match the address on file with the IRS. If the student’s current mailing address does not match the address on file with the IRS, the student should first file IRS Form 8822 to change their address, which will take approximately 10 days.
  • Students may also call the IRS automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946 to order a tax return or tax account transcript to be sent by mail.

2. Alternately, the student can complete IRS Form 4506-T on paper, check box 7 and send this form by mail or fax. On line 5 of IRS Form 4506-T the student can specify that the Verification of Nonfiling Letter be sent to a third-party address. In most cases the student should have it sent to themselves, not directly to the college. However, it is best to ask each college what they prefer. If a student submits this paper form by mail, it will take 7-14 days to be processed.

Note that there is no fee for obtaining the Verification of Nonfiling Letter or a tax transcript. If the student says there is a $50 fee, they are filing the wrong form. The form that is required is IRS Form 4506-T, not IRS Form 4506.

Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV)

Q: I am working with a foster youth attending community college. As the summer approaches, she is worried about how to pay for housing and other living expenses. I asked, and it turns out she didn’t receive a Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) for the current academic year.

Can she still get the Chafee ETV for the current academic year? Would she be eligible for any funding over the summer? Also, would a student who is enrolling for the first time at community college this summer be able to get a grant?

A: Chafee ETV funds have not yet been fully expended and she may be able to get the Chafee ETV for the 2017-18 academic year, including the upcoming summer term. New students enrolling for the first time for the summer may also be able to receive a grant. In order to apply she must submit a 2017/2018 FAFSA and a Chafee application.

The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) administers the Chafee Education and Training Voucher. CSAC will be issuing Chafee awards for students who attended school during the 2017-18 academic year through September 24, 2018. While the $14 million state budget allocation will likely run out before all approved students are granted awards, it is possible that the student you are working with could still receive a grant. If she was enrolled at least half time for the fall and spring terms this year, she could qualify for the full maximum of $5000. If she was enrolled for one term, she could qualify for $2500, plus an additional $2500 if she chooses to enroll in classes over the summer. New students enrolling for the first time for this coming summer may also be able to receive up to $2500.

The deadline to apply for this year is September 10, however the 2017/2018 FAFSA must be submitted and accepted no later than June 30, 2018 to qualify.

It is also worth it to have her to apply for a Chafee ETV for the current academic year because even if the student is not awarded a grant, it may make her a higher priority next year. According to CSAC, prioritization of applications is in part based on the date that the Chafee application is submitted. So, if the young person applies for the Chafee ETV for the 2017-18 academic year and is approved, but is not awarded a grant, that student has a higher likelihood of getting a Chafee ETV in the next academic year than if they wait until later to submit their application.

How does a student verify their status as a homeless youth for financial aid?

Q: I’m working with a youth who has been in and out of shelters and couch surfing. I understand from helping him complete his FAFSA that as a homeless youth, he qualifies as an independent student. What will he need to provide to the school to verify this?

A: Other than a financial aid administrator, there are three authorized authorities that can verify that he “was determined at any time since July 1, 2017 [year prior to the award year], to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.” These authorities are:

  • a school district homeless liaison
  • the director (or designee) of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • the director (or designee) of a runaway or homeless youth (RHY) basic center or transitional living program

These three authorities can submit a homeless youth determination letter on behalf of the student. (Here is a letter template from National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth & a letter template from SchoolHouse Connection).

If he is a current high school student, he should ask for a letter from the school district homeless liaison. Or, if he is currently a resident in a RHY-funded shelter or transitional living program or HUD-funded shelter or transitional housing program, he should ask the director (or someone the director designates) to provide the letter.

Additionally, these authorities are now permitted to write determination letters for homeless youth for subsequent years as long as they have the necessary information to write such letters. This means if he is no longer in high school but still has relationship with the homeless liaison from his former high school, or was previously a resident in a RHY- or HUD-funded shelter or transitional living/housing program, he should visit the school or program to request a letter. Note that school district homeless liaisons can only write letters for youth up through age 23.

If he is not able to get a letter from any of the three aforementioned authorities, then he needs to visit the financial aid office at his college so that the financial aid administrator (FAA) can make the determination. The FAA may make the determination based on help from third parties, or, if there is no written documentation available from third parties, a documented interview with the student suffices.

Citation: U.S. Department of Education. 2018-19 Federal Student Aid Handbook, Application & Verification Guide. https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf

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Minimum Income for Filing Taxes

Q: I am working with youth to ensure they file their income taxes before the April 17 tax filing deadline. What is the minimum income level after which an individual is required to file taxes?

A: Assuming the youth is single, those who make $10,400 and over are required to file a tax return for 2017. However, even if they do not meet the minimum required income, youth should consider filing taxes if they can get money back.  According to Efile.com, an individual can get money back for the following reasons:

  • If they had taxes withheld from their pay, they must file a tax return to receive a tax refund.
  • If they qualify, they must file a return to receive the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • If they are claiming education credits, they must file to be refunded the American Opportunity Credit.
  • If they have a qualifying child but owe no tax, they can file to be refunded the Additional Child Tax Credit.
  • If they qualify, they must file to claim the refundable Health Coverage Tax Credit.
  • If they overpaid estimated tax or applied a prior year overpayment to this year, they must file to receive the refund.

For assistance with filing taxes, please visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site near you.  You can find a site near you by visiting www.CalEITC4Me.org and using the Free Tax Prep Finder Tool, or call the IRS at 1-800-906-9887.

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