Financial aid requirements for homeless students made easy

August 15, 2016  - Higher education has incorporated a number of homeless students when it comes to financial aid, yet a significant percentage of homeless youth still encounter the obstacles in accessing financial aid to complete their degree. As of 2014, there are over 56000 college students as   who have been reported as homeless and with no access to financial aid applications. This is because many students didn’t fill out the application form due to certain restrictions, for example, they must be declared homeless or at the risk of being homeless by the director of a federally funded high school or shelter counselor before they show their status on FAFSA  (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This statuary requirement poses many difficulties for students in the second of third year of college. In addition, the definition of “youth” in FASFA also excludes students older than 21 and having instability of being homelessness. In short, the financial aid requirements have been tougher for the homeless than normal applicants.

This issue has been raised just last month by Senator Patty Murray, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The debate resulted in Department’s steps to simplify the legislations requiring the homeless students to verify their living situation each year along with documentations that declare their homelessness status. In addition, the instruction in the form saying that final decision is not open to any discussion or inquiry or concern from the rejected students, has also been pointed out by Murray, to be modified. This ensures better access and clarification for the students, which would be helpful to them for the future application process.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. has assured that department will clarify the terms in the application and streamline the mechanism for determining the status of all homeless applicants, apart from 21 years old or less. This will also help the older homeless students to pass through the process faster. The mentioned changes are expected to be implemented from 2018-2019 award year.