Category Archives: Post-Secondary Education

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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CalGrant Extension

Q: I heard that foster youth can now receive a CalGrant for eight years instead of four years under a bill passed this year by the legislature. If a foster youth is already receiving a CalGrant, can they still get the full eight years or is it only for students who get new awards moving forward?

A: All foster youth who otherwise qualify can receive the grant for the full eight years, regardless of whether they are already receiving a CalGrant or not. Representatives from the California Student Aid Commission shared this on a webinar last week. To view the entire webinar, CLICK HERE.

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Are there any circumstances in which minors can receive their foster care payment directly?

Q: I understand a new law went into effect this year that allows youth under age 18 to receive their foster care payment directly if they are enrolled in college and living in a dorm. Is that the case?

A: Yes. Assembly Bill 766 went into effect on January 1, 2018 which allows a minor dependent at least 16 years of age to receive his or her foster care payment directly if they meet each of the following criteria:

  • The minor is enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution, and
  • The minor is living independently in a dormitory or other designated housing of the post-secondary educational institution, and
  • The placement is made pursuant to a supervised placement agreement and Transitional Independent Living Plan (TILP).

Earlier this month, the California Department of Social Services issued All County Letter 18-135 which outlines the requirements of AB 766 and provides instructions to counties about its implementation. Additional information included in the ACL follows:

  • Minors who are receiving court ordered family reunification services are not be eligible to live independently, if the court finds that such placement would impede reunification efforts.
  • Dormitories, other designated university housing, and Job Corps housing are exempt from the health and safety checklist.
  • A new supervised placement agreement form specific to 16-18 year old youth will be made available in the future.

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Educational Opportunity Program deadlines at Cal State Universities

Q: I am planning to submit an application to a Cal State University this month. I want to apply for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and I heard that I need to do that with my application, but I just realized that I need to provide two letters of recommendation to apply for EOP. Is there any way that I can submit the letters after the November 30 application deadline?

A: While you must indicate on your admissions application if you would like to be considered for the Educational Opportunity Program, the deadline for submitting the required materials, including autobiographical essays and letters of recommendation falls after November 30. The deadlines vary by school, and range between December 7 and January 31, depending on the institution. To see the deadline for each institution, follow this LINK.

The CSU’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) provides admission, academic and financial support services to historically underserved students throughout California including low-income, first generation and foster youth students. Some foster youth support programs require enrollment in EOP in order to participate. In addition to indicating on the admissions application that they would like to apply for EOP, students must apply for financial aid and must complete autobiographical essay questions and provide two letters of recommendation from individuals who can comment about the student’s potential to succeed in college such as a counselor, teacher, community member, or employer.

Make sure that you apply for the program with your CSU application as students will not be admitted to the program after they enroll in school.

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.

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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.