Answer: The short answer is that the college financial aid office is wrong. The federal guidance for financial aid, called the Application and Verification Guide (https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf) states: “Unaccompanied homeless youth (56–58). A student is independent if at any time on or after July 1, 2017 (irrespective of whether he is currently homeless or at risk thereof) he is determined to be an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or is self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.” (Page 31 of the document, or page AVG-27). Neither the student’s current status nor his intermittent stays with his mother matter – the student simply needs to have been determined to be an unaccompanied homeless youth after July 1. Elsewhere in this document, on pp. 121-122, or AVG-117-118, the guidance makes clear that financial aid administrators must use the McKinney-Vento definition, and must accept determinations from liaisons.

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