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Accessing College for Students in Temporary Housing

Resources | Financial Aid Information | Scholarships

Higher education is the key to helping students experiencing homelessness escape poverty. There are several programs available through the federal Higher Education Act, such as the TRIO programs, that help students graduate from high school, apply and enroll in college, and complete their degrees.

In December 2015, the McKinney-Vento Act was reauthorized as Title IX, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Under the amendments to McKinney-Vento, liaisons must make sure that unaccompanied homeless youth are informed of their status as independent students for college financial aid and that they get help verifying their status for the FAFSA. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(6)(A)(x)(III). The amendments to McKinney-Vento also require that school districts advise, prepare, and improve the college readiness of students in temporary housing. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(1)(K).

Below are links with resources and information about financial aid and scholarships for unaccompanied youth and students in temporary housing.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Find answers to commonly asked questions about students experiencing homelessness accessing higher education.


NYSED Field Memo: College Counseling and Access for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

This field memo from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) outlines the responsibilities of Local Education Agencies (LEAs, including school districts, charter schools, and BOCES) to support students in temporary housing in pursuing college or other post-secondary opportunities. The memo identifies best practices and provides helpful resources LEAs can use to satisfy these responsibilites.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Verification Form for the Purposes of Federal Financial Aid [Word Doc]

This template form can be used by LEA liaisons, HUD-funded shelter staff, and RHYA shelter staff for verifying a student's status as an unaccompanied homeless youth for the FAFSA.

Supporting College Access Checklist [PDF]

This checklist includes strategies McKinney-Vento liaisons and school districts can use to ensure that youth experiencing homelessness have access to college access services and other supports to help ensure that they are ready for post-secondary opportunities.

Fact Sheet: High School Graduation Options for Students with Disabilities

This document details high school graduation options for students with disabilities, including the different safety net options for students with disabilities to graduate with a local diploma. The fact sheet contains new information about Superintendent Determinations (effective Dec 2017), which don’t have a minimum Regents exam score requirement.

Presentation from the NYS Education Department: Superintendent Determination Option and Safety Net Options for Students with Disabilities

This presentation from NYSED's Committee of Practitioners details the different safety net options for students with disabilities to graduate with a local diploma, including new information about Superintendent Determinations that went into effect in December 2017 and don’t have a minimum Regents exam score requirement.

Increasing Access to Higher Education for Unaccompanied Youth: Information for Colleges and Universities [PDF]

This NCHE brief includes a summary of education legislation prior to 2012 that gives unaccompanied homeless youth access to educational supports, and provides examples of practices that high schools, colleges, and universities have used to assist these students in succeeding. Please note: this guidance does not include changes made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which added new protections for students in temporary housing.

The National Center for Homeless Education: Access to Higher Education for Students Experiencing Homelessness and SchoolHouse Connection: Higher Education

These webpages have a variety of information and links for students in temporary housing who wish to pursue post-secondary education

Financial Aid Information

Application and Verification Guide to the FAFSA

The U.S. Department of Education's "Application and Verification Guide" (AVG) provides instructions and guidance for filling out the FAFSA form for financial aid.

NCHE Summary of the 2017-2018 Application and Verification Guide to FAFSA

This NCHE guide provides a summary of the changes to the U.S. Department of Education's "Application and Verification Guide" (AVG) for 2017-2018.

Applying for TAP as an Independent Student

The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is a grant program for NYS residents who are full-time undergraduate students and are enrolled in an eligible program within the state. Annual awards range from $500 to $5,000.

SAT Program Fee-Waiver Service

This webpage from the College Board explains how a high school junior and senior can receive a fee-waiver in order to take the SAT college entrance exam or SAT subject tests. It also discusses how a college-bound student can receive waivers for college application fees.

ACT Fee Waiver Eligiblity Requirements and Procedures

This webpage describes the steps that economically disadvantaged high school juniors or seniors should follow to receive a fee waiver for taking the ACT college entrance exam.

U.S. Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Determinations [PDF]

This July 29, 2015 Dear Colleague letter from the U.S. Department of Education provides guidance for financial aid administrators on the definition of homelessness, how to make determinations, and how to document students' status. It revises the prior policy so that all applicants under age 24, including those who are 22 or 23 years old, are unaccompanied and experiencing homelessness, or are self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, qualify for a homeless youth determination and will be considered independent students.

Financial Aid Toolkit

This Toolkit from the U.S. Department of Education provides federal student aid information and outreach tools for counselors, college access professionals, nonprofit mentors, and other advisors.

Understanding FAFSA

Understanding FAFSA: The How-To Guide for High School Students is designed to help students and families navigate the FAFSA and may be particularly useful for students who are among the first in their family to go to college, or are new to the country.


Scholarship Opportunities

Here is a list of resources for college scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities.

Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

The Horatio Alger Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to students in NYS who have exhibited integrity and perseverance in overcoming personal adversity, including homelessness, and who aspire to pursue higher education.

SchoolHouse Connection Youth Leadership and Scholarship Program

This scholarship program provides scholarships, networking opportunities, and support services to students who have experienced homelessness applying or attending college.


Workshops and Training Materials

Training and Workshop Materials