On Thursday, February 4, SchoolHouse Connection, Juvenile Law Center, and John Burton Advocates for Youth hosted a webinar centered around new FAFSA policies that affect youth in the foster care system.
Why does FAFSA matter for homeless and foster youth? We know that FAFSA matters because some form of postsecondary education is necessary for jobs that pay enough to lift out of poverty and afford housing. In addition, equity gaps are only getting worse due to COVID-19. Research shows that FAFSA numbers are down about 17 percent from last year, with a deeper decline in low-income communities.
The FAFSA Simplification Act is now law! This act is included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, H.R. 133. Changes are effective as of July 1, 2023, and apply to the 2023-2024 award year and subsequent years. It’s not too early to plan for implementation and determine what guidance is needed for this law.
One aspect of this law is that homeless youth and foster care status do not need to be redetermined every year. This process can be retraumatizing for youth and challenging to do because of tracking down paperwork. This process has served as another barrier that will now be taken away. Once the status is determined, the youth will be presumed independent from there on unless the student informs of a change. In addition, there is now a broader list of officials and programs who are authorized to determine unaccompanied homeless youth status, which helps take down another barrier for youth.
For foster care youth, an institution must accept certain documentation as adequate, including:
- A court order or official state documentation that the student receives federal or state support from foster care;
- Verification of the student’s eligibility of Education and Training Voucher (ETV);
- A documented phone call or written statement from an IV-E/IV-B state, local, or tribal agency, a child-placing agency, an attorney, a guardian ad litem, or Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
For comprehensive homelessness and financial aid resources, including sample verification forms, tip sheets, and more, click here.