Unaccompanied Youth and the FAFSA Case Studies and Discussion Guides Case Study 1 Jennifer • Jennifer is a 17 year old Senior in high school. She will graduate in June and it is presently April. • She has tried to fill out the FAFSA online, but is having difficulty because she doesn’t have regular access to a computer. • She visits the Financial Aid office at the college she wants to attend. She has been accepted to that college but is worried she can not attend in the Fall because she can't get through the FAFSA online. • She asked for a paper version of the FAFSA and hands it back to the Financial Aid office. There is no parent income information filled in. • Jennifer is living with her sister until August. Their mother is in prison for at least two years. Jennifer is not sure where she is going to live in August but hopes to be in a dorm in September. Case Study 1 Jennifer Questions: 1. What should the financial aid office do for Jennifer? •The financial aid office should contact Jennifer to get more information on why her parents' information has been left off her FAFSA. Discrete questions will reveal that Jennifer qualifies as a homeless unaccompanied youth. She is living in a temporary situation without a parent or guardian. The financial aid office should assist her with properly filling out the FAFSA as a homeless unaccompanied youth. •The FAA also should connect Jennifer with her school district’s homeless education liaison to make sure she is receiving other appropriate services at school. The liaison also can make a determination of Jennifer’s status as an unaccompanied homeless youth for purposes of the FAFSA. The college or the school homeless education liaison should give Jennifer information about other community services that could assist her, such as the agencies who administer the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Case Study 1 Jennifer Questions: 2. How does this situation demonstrate the need for informational posters in schools and on campuses? •Informational posters could have given Jennifer the information she needed to seek out her school homeless education liaison to help assist her with the FAFSA. •Jennifer also could have been able to explore other scholarship information such as the LeTendre Education Fund scholarship program for students who have experienced homelessness. (http://www.naehcy.org/about_letendre.html) Posters in Jennifer's high school, college financial aid office or during a McKinney-Vento FAFSA Week would have helped Jennifer. Case Study 1 Jennifer Questions: 3. What services does Jennifer qualify for at her high school? •Jennifer qualifies for services under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. •The homeless education liaison at Jennifer's school district can assist her with transportation to and from school if necessary to maintain school stability, free breakfast and lunch and other services needed for academic success. •Jennifer can receive waivers for SAT and ACT testing, as well as waivers for some college applications if Jennifer is in need of these waivers. •The liaison also can connect Jennifer to other community services that could assist her, such as housing, food, clothing, and health care. Case Study 2 Jose • Jose is a 20-year-old sophomore in college. He lived in the dorms last year and is planning on doing so again this year. • His mother was evicted from her small apartment, so she went to live with her sister in another state. There really isn’t room for Jose at his aunt’s place. • Over the summer, Jose lived with the family of one of his friends for a few weeks, and then got a job as a camp counselor. Another one of the camp counselors said Jose could stay with him for a few weeks until school starts and Jose can get back in the dorm. • When Jose calls his Mom to ask her to fill in the parent information in the FAFSA, his mother said she didn’t have the information and couldn’t help him. She told him that he was on his own now. • He saw a poster in the financial aid office of his college that told him he could file as an independent student. Case Study 2 Jose Questions: 1. Does Jose qualify as a homeless unaccompanied youth? Yes. He has not had a permanent or fixed nightly residence. He is living without his parent or guardian. He cannot live with his mother, who had to move because she lost her housing. He would be homeless if he was not living in the dorm. 2. How can Joses status be verified? •Jose was not in a shelter and did not receive services from the RHYA programs. He is not a high school student, and he never experienced homelessness in high school. •The Financial Aid Administrator must make a determination of his status using the legal definitions of “unaccompanied” and “homeless.” •The FAA should refer him to RHYA or other appropriate programs for additional assistance. He does not need to receive services from one of those programs to be considered homeless. The FAA must make that determination. Case Study 3 • Jamal left home when he was 16. He is Jamal Case Study now 17 and is applying to college and completing the FAFSA. • His high school homeless education liaison instructs him on how to fill it out as a homeless unaccompanied youth. • Over the summer he meets with the Financial Aid office of his college and gives them a letter from his district homeless education liaison. The letter states that Jamal qualifies as a homeless unaccompanied youth. It is on the high school letterhead. • The college has their own form letter and asks Jamal to go back to his high school to get their letter signed. Jamal comes back to the college. The high school office is closed until the end of August. so he can’t obtain a signature for the college’s letter. Case Study 3 Jamal Question: Is there a specific form for verifying status of a homeless unaccompanied youth? No. There are several forms available for schools and agencies to adapt. Any form or letter that appropriately documents the student’s status should be sufficient. It is important to put the form or letter on the letterhead of the agency/school that is verifying. Case Study 4 Jackie • Jackie and her mother became homeless when Jackie’s mother left an abusive boyfriend. • Jackie is finishing up her senior year of high school. They have stayed at a domestic violence shelter for almost two months and are about to get an apartment in transitional housing. • Jackie’s mother doesn’t know where to find the parent information to help Jackie fill out the FAFSA. • Jackie asked the shelter if she could be considered an independent student because they are homeless. Case Study 4 Jackie Question: Does Jackie qualify for independent status as a homeless unaccompanied youth on the FAFSA? • No. Jackie is homeless but not a homeless unaccompanied youth. She is still living with her parent. • Jackie should receive services through the McKinney-Vento program in her high school. • The FAA at the college Jackie wants to attend could help her mother find out where to get the necessary information needed to fill out the FAFSA. Most likely, Jackie will still qualify for financial aid due to lack of income. Case Study 5 Christopher • Christopher is a 23-year-old student who just received his GED and is excited about becoming a full time college student. • He stays with two friends in their apartment. Sometimes he helps pay rent, but usually he doesn't get enough hours at work to help with rent. He isn't sure how long they will let him stay. • His parents are separated and each parent has said the other should be helping Christopher with college. • Neither parent will give him the information needed for the parent portion of the FAFSA. Case Study 5 Christopher Question: Does Christopher qualify for independent status as a homeless unaccompanied youth on the FAFSA? No. Unaccompanied homeless students who are older than 21, but not yet 24, do not meet the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of “youth” on the FAFSA. However, they may qualify as independent by the process of “professional judgment.” Christopher should explain his situation to the Financial Aid Administrator at the college where he seeks to enroll, explaining his circumstances and requesting a dependency override so that he may be considered an independent student. Case Study 6 Tina • Tina is a 20-year-old sophomore in college. Her mother died when she was very young, and she was raised by her father and grandmother. • Last year her grandmother moved into a senior citizen apartment building and Tina’s father was able to purchase a home for Tina and himself. • Three months ago Tina’s father was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away last month. • Tina cannot stay at her grandmother's senior citizen apartment due to the rules there, and she cannot afford to keep Tina's father’s house. • Tina is concerned that she no longer has parent information for the FAFSA. Case Study 6 Tina Question: Does Tina qualify for independent status as a homeless unaccompanied youth on the FAFSA? Yes. Her living situation is not fixed or permanent. Her Grandmother would not qualify as her guardian. She also qualifies for independent status because both of her parents are deceased.
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