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Access to Higher Education for Students Experiencing Homelessness

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NCHE Resources

Increasing Access to Higher Education for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth: Information for Colleges and Universities
Many unaccompanied homeless youth have higher education aspirations, but find the barriers to enrollment and attendance to be overwhelming. This NCHE brief provides a better understanding of unaccompanied homeless youth and the educational and other challenges they face, a summary of federal education legislation that gives unaccompanied homeless youth access to important educational supports, and samples of promising practices implemented by high schools, colleges, and universities to assist unaccompanied homeless youth in succeeding in college.
Download the brief.

Making Student Status Determinations for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth: Eligibility Tool for Financial Aid Administrators
This form, developed collaboratively by the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), is to be completed by a college financial aid administrator (FAA) who is evaluating a student's eligibility for independent student status. It provides guidance to assist FAAs in making a determination if a student seeking independent student status as an unaccompanied homeless youth comes to the attention of a FAA when a determination by a local liaison or shelter is not available.
Download the form.

NCHE/NASFAA Higher Education Poster (available in English and Spanish)
This 8 x 11 color poster, created in collaboration with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and based on the unaccompanied homeless youth provisions of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, alerts unaccompanied homeless youth to contact the relevant authorities if they believe they may qualify for independent student status on the FAFSA due to lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The poster is appropriate for posting across high school and college campuses, in HUD-funded and RHYA-funded shelters, and in other community locations where unaccompanied homeless youth may congregate.
Download the poster.


Other Resources

ACT Fee Waiver Eligibility Requirements and Procedures
This two-page brochure from ACT describes the procedures that economically disadvantaged high school juniors or seniors should follow to receive a fee waiver for taking the ACT college entrance exam.
Download the brochure.

Application and Verification Guide 2013-2014
This guide from the U.S. Department of Education is intended for financial aid administrators and counselors who help students begin the student aid process: filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), verifying information, and making corrections and other changes to the information reported on the FAFSA. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) states that unaccompanied homeless youth are to be considered independent students when applying for federal financial aid for higher education. See pages AVG-23, AVG-105, and AVG-106 for specific references to unaccompanied homeless youth.
Download the guide.

College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers
This toolkit from National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) serves as a comprehensive resource on the issue of higher education access and success for homeless students, including information on understanding homeless students, assisting homeless students in choosing a school, helping homeless students pay for application-related expenses, assisting homeless students in finding financial aid and scholarships for school, and helping homeless students succeed in college.
Download the toolkit.

College Access for Nontraditional Students: How to Replicate a Successful Program
This report from Seattle Education Access (SEA) describes the basic values and strategies used by SEA to provide access to higher education for nontraditional students, including young people experiencing homelessness.
Download the report.

College Board: Information on Access to Higher Education for Undocumented Students
The College Board, a national organization focused on college readiness and access, provides practical and informative resources focused on access to higher education for undocumented students.
Advising Undocumented Students
Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students
Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students
Visit the webpage.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Website
The FAFSA is the form required by the federal government for application to any federal education aid program. The FAFSA is used to determine the expected family contribution based on family financial information. A FAFSA is used to determine the specific Federal Student Aid programs that can contribute to a student's total financial aid package and in what proportions.
Fill out the FAFSA online. (recommended over filling out the PDF or paper FAFSA)
Download the 2014-2015 FAFSA On The Web Worksheet.
Download the 2013-2014 FAFSA On The Web Worksheet.
Search federal school codes (used to identify colleges/universities on the FAFSA)
Download the 2014-2015 FAFSA in PDF format.
Download the 2013-2014 FAFSA in PDF format.
Call 1-800-4-FED-AID or 1-800-394-7084 to request that a hard copy of the FAFSA be mailed to you.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs)
This federal discretionary grant program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP provides six-year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools. GEAR UP grantees serve an entire cohort of students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students.
Visit the webpage.

Helping Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Access College Financial Aid
This brief from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) discusses the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-84) as it pertains to homeless unaccompanied youth. It also provides a list of resources to use in assisting homeless unaccompanied youth access various kinds of financial aid and provides sample letters that can be used to establish a homeless unaccompanied youth's status as an "independent student" for the purposes of applying for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Download the brief.

Income Tax and the FAFSA for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
This two-page brief from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) answers various questions about the relationship between the filing of tax returns and a youth's completion of the FAFSA. Questions answered include: How does a youth's decision to file a tax return affect the FAFSA?; Are youth required to file tax returns?, and; What should an unaccompanied youth do if his/her parents claim him/her as a dependent on their tax returns?.
Download the brief.

Postsecondary Education Resources for Youth in and Transitioning out of the Child Welfare System
This information brief from the Legal Center on Foster Care and Education explains barriers that youth in and transitioning out of the foster care system may face in accessing higher education and provides information on supports and opportunities available to assist these youth in meeting their higher education goals.
Download the brief.

Providing Effective Financial Aid Assistance to Students from Foster Care and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
This December 2009 guide from Casey Family Programs provides information on helping youth from foster care and unaccompanied homeless youth to secure financial aid for postsecondary education or training programs. It describes how to respond to new FAFSA questions that will determine federal financial aid status for these students. The guide will be most useful for financial aid professionals, independent living coordinators, guidance counselors, financial aid counselors, social workers, and advocates helping youth to secure the maximum allowable financial aid.
Download the guide.

Recommendations for Transitioning Unaccompanied Homeless Youth to Higher Education
This Colorado tip sheet lists strategies for providing a welcome environment and an effective support response for unaccompanied homeless youth in institutions of higher education.
Download the tipsheet.

SAT Program Fee-Waiver Service
This webpage from the College Board explains how a high school junior or senior can receive a fee-waiver in order to take the SAT college entrance exam or SAT subject tests, if paying the fee would pose a barrier to the student's college entrance. It also discusses how a college-bound student can receive waivers for college application fees.
Visit the webpage.

Supporting Success: Improving Higher Education Outcomes for Students from Foster Care (A framework for program enhancement)
Few students from foster care ever gain access to higher education programs, let alone graduate from college. Colleges and universities can help youth succeed. Colleges, policymakers, and advocates have begun to address this issue with calls for policy advances, practice innovations, and influential advocacy. This Casey Family Programs publication provides program development tools for college counselors, administrators, professors, and staff. It helps education professionals define a plan for improving their institution's support for students from foster care.
Visit the webpage.

TRIO (Federal TRIO Programs)
The Federal TRIO Programs are educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes six outreach and support programs targeted to serve and assist low-income, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs.
Visit the webpage.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Tip Sheet for Colorado McKinney-Vento Single Points of Contact
This Colorado tip sheet provides strategies for higher education personnel for determining independent student status on the FAFSA for unaccompanied homeless youth and for providing continued support for these students once their college enrollment has occured.
Download the tipsheet.

Program Contacts

NAEHCY State Higher Education Network Contacts
NAEHCY's State Higher Education Networks consist of stakeholders from K-12 education, higher education, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shelters, community agencies, and college access programs. Network members collaborate to identify and address barriers to higher education access, retention, and success for youth experiencing homelessness.
Visit the webpage.


Sample Forms, Materials, and Policies

Being Their Advocate: Helping Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Access Higher Education
This PowerPoint presentation, presented at 2011 Conference of the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) in Boston in July 2011, provides higher education and college access professionals with important information about College Cost Reduction and Access Act provisions pertaining to unaccompanied homeless youth.
Download the presentation.

California: AB 1393
This California laws requires state universities and community colleges to give priority for student housing to current and former foster youth, including for housing facilities that are open for year-round occupation.
View the law.

Loyola University McKinney-Vento Evaluation Form
This form, created by the Loyola University's Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, guides university staff through a series of questions to use in evaluating whether a student meets the McKinney-Vento and College Cost Reduction and Acceses Act's definition of homeless.
Note: Homeless students must qualify not only as homeless, but as unaccompanied, to be granted independent student status as an unaccompanied homeless youth on the FAFSA. This form does not address the unaccompanied issue.
Download the form.

Students-In-Transition: Education After High School Handbook
This handbook from Students-In-Transition (SIT) Office at St. Louis Public Schools provides information to high school students experiencing homelessness about the college application process, financial aid and scholarships, and various post-secondary education options.
Download the handbook.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Documentation of Independent Student Status for the FAFSA
This sample independent student determination form from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth can be placed on your agency's letterhead and used to provide documentation of your determination of a student's unaccompanied homeless, and therefore independent, student status.
Download the form.

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The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) is the U.S. Department of Education's technical assistance center for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program. NCHE is housed at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

This website was produced with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, on contract no. ED-01-CO-0092/0001. The content of this website does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education or the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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