‘Huge Sense of Relief’: How New FAFSA Could Help Homeless Students

"Lexi Geampa didn’t think she would be able to go to college. She was couch surfing with friends during her senior year of high school and needed to be verified as an unaccompanied homeless youth in order to receive federal financial aid because she doesn’t have parents to support her. She did eventually receive that determination and enrolled at Oregon State University, where she’s now a sophomore. But, every academic year, she has to reverify her status with college administrators to continue to receive aid, which she said is frustrating," Inside Higher Ed reports

... "Jill Desjean, senior policy analyst with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said the department has simplified the process for unaccompanied homeless youth determinations over the years via guidance, and the FAFSA Simplification Act builds on those changes."

"'It used to be really difficult to prove, and students would have to jump through a lot of hoops, and then various changes—legislative, regulatory and guidance-related—have happened over the past few years to make it a little bit easier,' she said, adding that the homeless status has been tricky for students for a long time."

"The challenges for students start with the FAFSA. The three separate questions on the current form are wordy, technical and complicated, she said. Under the new form, students will just have to answer yes to no to one question, according to the draft FAFSA."

"'That alone is a pretty big jump to just have a single homelessness question instead of all these separate ones,' she said."

"Desjean said financial aid administrators 'were always told, like, dig, dig, dig and find out more,' but that approach shifted over the years following department guidance that gave institutions more flexibility and said that students didn’t have to provide additional documentation beyond a statement."

"'That was the first step in making life easier for homeless students to get financial aid,' she said."

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Publication Date: 5/9/2023

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