Tag Archives: homeless youth determination

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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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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