On April 17, the U.S. Department of Education published a draft of the 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for public comment. The draft FAFSA may be found here.

The current FAFSA limits the term “youth” to applicants age 21 and under. It creates barriers for unaccompanied homeless youth who are 22 or 23 years old, who often are forced to submit extensive and burdensome documentation to prove their homeless status until they are no longer considered “dependent” at age 24.

The draft 2018-2019 FAFSA removes of the restrictive definition of “youth” for unaccompanied homeless youth that is included in the current FAFSA.

We applaud this proposed change. If adopted, it would open doors for thousands of unaccompanied homeless youth across the nation by streamlining the financial aid process for students and for financial aid administrators. It would make a tremendous difference for older unaccompanied homeless youth who wish to continue, or to begin, their pursuit of higher education.

SchoolHouse Connection and the National Network for Youth have drafted a short organizational sign-on letter in response to the request for public comments. Please read and sign your organization on to the letter here.  The deadline for signing on to the letter is May 25, 2017.

In addition to the proposed change to the FAFSA, revised guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, now in effect, makes it easier for unaccompanied homeless youth to continue their pursuit of higher education.

The  2017-2018 Application & Verification Guide (AVG) states: “In rare cases where a recognized authority provides documentation of unaccompanied homeless youth status to a person no longer receiving services from the authority’s organization, that documentation is acceptable for verifying unaccompanied homelessness.” The AVG Guide also states that “Local liaisons may write subsequent year letters of verification for unaccompanied homeless youth through age 23 for whom they have the necessary information to write such letter.” In other words, a liaison can verify unaccompanied homeless status for a student who left high school one or more years ago, if the liaison remains aware of the student’s living situation. Shelter providers whom are no longer actively serving a student may do the same.

For more information on homelessness and higher education, see https://www.schoolhouseconnection.org/higher-education/

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