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Frequently Asked Questions: Accessing College for Students in Temporary Housing

Does the McKinney-Vento Act address the rights of students attending higher education institutions?

The McKinney-Vento Act covers all school-age children, which in New York State includes all children until they receive their high school diploma, or through the school year in which they turn 21 years old, whichever comes first. N.Y. Education Law § 3202(1). Homeless unaccompanied youth can qualify as independent students on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can make it easier for them to get the financial aid they need to pursue college. 20 U.S.C. § 1087yy(d)(1)(H).

How do students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if they do not have their parents' financial information?

Youth do not always need to provide information about their parents' finances for college. If a student has been designated as an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth anytime during the school year, the student can apply for financial aid as an "independent student." Unaccompanied homeless youths are considered to be independent students for college financial aid. 20 U.S.C. § 1087 vv(d)(1)(H). A liaison, director of a Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY), director of a HUD-funded shelter or transitional program can write a letter to the college financial aid administrator saying the student is an independent student. Liaisons may also write follow-up letters of verification for unaccompanied homeless youth in later years if they have the necessary information, even if the student is no longer enrolled in the school district. 42 U.S.C. § 11431 (g)(6)(A)(x)(III). For a copy of sample forms that RHY and liaisons can use to help unaccompanied youth who want to go to college, please click here.

How can McKinney-Vento liaisons help students with credit accrual and college preparation?

McKinney-Vento liaisons must help temporarily housed unaccompanied youth to make sure that they have opportunities to meet the same academic achievement standards as permanently housed students. Liaisons must also make sure that unaccompanied homeless youth know their status as independent students for college financial aid. Liaisons can verify a student's status for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA. School districts also have to identify and remove barriers that prevent students from receiving appropriate credit for full or partial coursework completed while attending a prior school, and describe how temporarily housed students will receive assistance from school counselors to advise, prepare, and improve their readiness for college. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(6)(A)(x)(II)& (g)(1)(F)(ii)& (g)(1)(K).

Where can students experiencing homelessness get more help and information about college?

There are several programs available through the federal Higher Education Act, such as the TRIO programs, that help students graduate from high school, apply to and enroll in college, and complete their degrees. For additional information, see the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) pages on higher education.

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