FAFSA Victories for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth!

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Check out this amazing accomplishment:

Higher education provides a lasting path out of homelessness, yet homeless youth face many barriers to accessing the financial aid they need to complete their college education.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced policy changes that will remove many of those barriers, allowing homeless youth to focus on their studies and their future.

  1. First, the Department will change the text of the FAFSA on the Web to be more supportive of unaccompanied homeless students beginning with the upcoming 2017-18 FAFSA, which will come online this fall.
  2. Additionally, the Department will remove the definition of “youth” starting with the 2018-19 FAFSA that comes online next year, which will allow 22- and 23-year-old applicants who indicate that they are homeless or at risk of being homeless access to a much smoother process for determining their independent status.

This tremendous victory is the result of years of effort and advocacy by NAEHCY and our allies, culminating in a recent visit of NAEHCY scholars to the US Department of Education, during which they described their challenges and their aspirations directly to Education Secretary John King.

Above all, NAEHCY is immeasurably grateful for U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s leadership in advocating for these changes, and continuing to be a champion for some of the most vulnerable and over-looked young people in our nation.

Over the past few months, Senator Murray has sent two letters to the U.S. Department of Education urging Secretary King to simplify and streamline the financial aid application process for unaccompanied homeless students. In her first letter, sent on February 9, 2016, Senator Murray urged Secretary King to simplify the FAFSA form for unaccompanied homeless youth by removing or streamlining the definition of “youth” and clarifying in guidance that all unaccompanied homeless youth up to age24 may receive determinations of their independent status from any of the designated officials or a documented interview. On May 31, 2016, Senator Murray sent anotherletter to the Department following up on the first letter’s recommendations and expressing concern over aggressive and inconsistent language proposed for the 2017-18 FAFSA. These issues were also raised in a May 2016 GAO report requested by Senator Murray that identified challenges faced by homeless youth in higher education.

Secretary of Education John King responded to Senator Murray in a letter that announces important steps to help unaccompanied homeless students apply for and receive financial aid through the FAFSA form. Secretary King’s letter also specifically describes the Department’s work with NAEHCY to improve access to higher education for homeless students.

In response to Secretary King’s letter, Senator Murray released a statement in which she said:

“I am very pleased that the Department has announced a strong step forward to tackle some of the barriers that unaccompanied homeless students face in accessing higher education,” said Senator Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “I have heard from students in Washington state and across the country, and have been pressing for answers and action about the serious roadblocks these students face in applying for and receiving financial aid, so I’m particularly glad to see that the Department is correcting inconsistencies and burdensome requirements on the FAFSA form. These are important actions to help more unaccompanied homeless students pursue a college degree and achieve their dreams, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the Administration to ensure students of all walks of life have the chance to further their education and succeed.”
Additional Articles and Resources:

October 1 FAFSA Date Could Help More Homeless Youth Apply for Financial Aid

GAO Releases New Report on Homeless and Foster Youth

NAEHCY Higher Education Helpline Now Expanded to Include Texting!

NAEHCY’s Higher Education Page

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