A NAEHCY PERSPECTIVE CYEKEIA LEE, DIRECTOR OF HIGHER EDUCATION INITIATIVES
Last year, President Obama announced that for the 2017-18 academic year, students will be able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on October 1, 2016. This will allow students to complete the FAFSA three months earlier than the traditional January 1st FAFSA release date.
For several reasons, this change is extremely important for homeless youth. First, the traditional January 1st date falls during winter break. Many homeless youth need assistance in order to complete the FAFSA, but may not have internet access during the holiday break. And second, the earlier date means that students will be able to receive financial aid award letters sooner, allowing them more time to compare award letters and decide which college may be the best fit.
Another important change to this year’s FAFSA is that students will be able to use “prior-prior year” tax information. This means that tax information from two years prior can be used to complete the FAFSA. In the past, many students failed to complete the FAFSA because taxes had not been filed by them, or by their parents, when the FAFSA application became available. For more information on the FAFSA release date, prior-prior tax tables, and other FAFSA resources, please visit the Federal Student Aid website.
What does the October 1 FAFSA release date mean for homeless students?
- This year, students will need to complete two FAFSA applications. The FAFSA application released on January 1, 2016 will need to be completed for the 2016-2017 academic year. The FAFSA application released on October 1, 2016 will need to be completed for the 2017-18 academic year. However, tax information from 2015 will be used for both applications.
- Students will able to complete the FAFSA application and their college admissions applications around the same time. This will allow them to begin to apply for scholarships sooner, because some need-based scholarships require students to have a completed FAFSA.
How can McKinney-Vento school liaisons and homeless service providers help?
- Continue to notify youth about their college access and financial aid options as soon as a student is identified as homeless.
- Continue to use the NAEHCY’s Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Documentation of Independent Student Status for the FAFSA template, which can be found on our higher education webpage at https://naehcy.org/educational-resources/higher-ed when making homeless status determinations.
- Use NAEHCY’s Unaccompanied Youth Toolkit to host a FAFSA Week to assist homeless students with completing the FAFSA, or invite local college and university Financial Aid Administrators to assist students with completing the FAFSA. For more information on how to host a FAFSA Week please visit https://naehcy.org/high-school-counselors-and-mckinney-vento-liaisons .
- Contact NAEHCY’s toll-free Higher Education Helpline at 855-446-2673, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or text “NAEHCY” 335577 for assistance with FAFSA completion for homeless youth.