It's important to provide extra college planning assistance to students who have been in foster care or could be considered homeless. Review the following resources and direct students to

Who is considered homeless?

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Act describes homelessness as: "Children and unaccompanied youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence."

  • "Fixed" means stationary, permanent, and not subject to change
  • "Regular" means nighttime residence available on a predictable or routine basis
  • "Adequate" means the residence is sufficient for both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environment, including adequate and quiet space for studying

Examples of homelessness

  • Sharing the house of others
  • Living in motels, hotels, or on camping grounds
  • Living in an emergency or transitional shelter
  • Living in places not designed for humans to live, such as cars or abandoned buildings
  • Migratory children

Homelessness, postsecondary education, and the FAFSA

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) and the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) include a definition of homelessness that matches McKinney-Vento. Questions are listed on the FAFSA to identify students meeting the criteria and to help those students receive help in escaping poverty and homelessness. If a student is able to answer "yes" to any of these questions, that student may be able to complete the FAFSA and obtain financial aid without providing parental information.

After completing the FAFSA, a homeless student should be able to document his or her situation with one of the following:

  • Certification from the secondary school district's McKinney-Vento Act LEA liaison
  • Documentation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) homeless assistance program director or designee
  • Certification from a Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program director or designee
  • Documentation from a financial aid officer who has met with the student, has completed a homeless youth determination form, and in some cases may have received letters of confirmation from parents of the student's friends, church leaders, or relatives

Exam fee waivers

Many students experiencing homelessness are eligible of fee waivers for some of the exams necessary to be admitted into a postsecondary school and enroll in classes. In most cases, the student should work with his or her high school guidance counselor to apply for these waivers.

  • The ACT exam - students demonstrating economic need may be eligible to take the ACT up to two times without paying the fee
  • The SAT exam - students meeting at least one indicator of economic need may receive up to two waivers for the SAT exam as well as waivers for SAT Subject Tests
  • Advanced Placement exams - AP exam waivers or fee reductions may be available through a high school's AP Coordinator and there is typically no limit on the number of waivers a students may receive
  • College application fees - postsecondary schools will waive the college application fee for students with financial need

Additional resources