Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that, in order to fully implement the FAFSA Simplification Act, the 2024-25 FAFSA will be released in December 2023, a delay from the usual date of October 1. This delay makes it even more important for professionals who serve youth experiencing homelessness and youth with experience in foster care – school district liaisons, service providers, college access programs, higher education homeless liaisons, child welfare professionals, and others – to understand the new FAFSA provisions for homeless and foster youth, and proactively reach out and assist youth to complete the FAFSA.
ED will release more information about the FAFSA changes, the new FAFSA form, what to do to get ready, and the impact of the delayed release soon. However, we urge our network to be proactive and offer the following strategies to get started.
Identify students experiencing homelessness and those with experience in foster care and start talking to them early about the FAFSA and postsecondary options.
A good place to start is to look at the list of juniors that were experiencing homelessness last year or have experience in foster care. If youth are unaccompanied and homeless, or unaccompanied and at risk of homelessness and self-supporting, they are considered independent students and do not need to include parental information on the FAFSA. More information about the definition of homelessness is here. If the student was in foster care or a dependent or ward of the court after turning 13, the student will also be considered independent. If a student falls under both homeless and foster care, we encourage students to go the foster care route because there tends to be more support in place for foster care students in higher education.
Research scholarship opportunities.
Research scholarship opportunities like SchoolHouse Connection’s Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program and encourage students to apply.
Stay up-to-update with new FAFSA provisions.
Stay up-to-date with the new FAFSA provisions for homeless and foster youth including the new entities who are now authorized to provide unaccompanied homeless youth determinations. Sign up for our newsletter to receive updated resources and the newest information about the FAFSA for homeless and foster youth.
Prepare unaccompanied homeless youth FAFSA determinations for students.
If you are an authorized entity for homeless determinations (school district liaison/designee, director/designee of an emergency or transitional shelter, street outreach program, homeless youth drop-in center, or other program serving individuals experiencing homelessness, director/designee of TRIO or GEAR UP, or financial aid administrator), start writing and preparing unaccompanied homeless youth FAFSA determinations for students. Use this template to provide a determination. If you are a financial aid administrator, use this one.
Help foster youth receive documentation.
Help foster youth receive documentation from either a court order or official State documentation that the student received federal or state support in foster care, a documented phone call, written statement, or verifiable data much that that confirms the student was in foster care at an applicable age, a documented phone call or a written statement from an attorney a guardian ad litem, or a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) that confirms the student was in foster care at an applicable age and documents the student’s relationship to the student, or verification of the student’s eligibility for an education and training voucher under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program.
Participate in trainings or webinars.
Participate in trainings or webinars about the new FAFSA. Watch this archived webinar featuring presenters from ED and read the accompanying FAQ. This video features a financial aid administrator explaining the new provisions and what her campus has done to support students.
Assist with creating a FSA ID.
Help students or parents create a FSA ID so when the FAFSA is available students are ready. They will need their social security number and phone number and/or email address. Make sure they have an email address they will have consistent access to, so be wary of using a high school email address.