How can we support MV students when they need to fill out the FAFSA form for college?
A call was made to the NYSTEACHS helpline, where the caller wanted more information on completing the FAFSA for an unaccompanied homeless youth. The caller shared that their nephew is living with them temporarily. The student arrived from his home country and does not have any other family members in the state. Since he is currently a senior in high school, he is also preparing to apply for college. This student is a U.S. citizen. The caller was assisting him in completing the FAFSA application but was unsure how to continue when the application asked for a determination letter. The caller wanted assistance in learning about determination letters, and who were the responsible parties in writing one. The caller also wanted to know how their nephew could receive fee waivers for college applications.
In this Tale, we are determining that the student is McKinney-Vento eligible because he is an unaccompanied homeless youth. If you need more information on determining eligibility please see Resource #1 below!
What is a determination letter?
Who writes a determination letter?
How does a student receive college application waivers?
In determining eligibility, please review the McKinney Vento Act and New York State guidance regarding unaccompanied homeless youth. These resources are found here: https://www.nysteachs.org/determining-eligibility-for-mckinney-vento
You may also review higher education and post-secondary education opportunities for homeless youth. Those resources can be found here: https://www.nysteachs.org/higher-education-and-postsecondary-opportunities
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now open. You can review these two websites:
Question 1: What is a determination letter?
When a student or designee is completing a FAFSA application, there are general questions about the student's housing status. If the student meets the definition of an unaccompanied homeless youth, further documentation may be required. A determination letter is such an example of documentation that can be provided as proof of this status. Please note that the FAFSA application can still be submitted if the student cannot obtain a determination letter. The student may then request a homeless youth determination from the financial aid administrator at the college the student plans to attend. As of November 2022 under the FAFSA Simplification Act, students are no longer required to submit a determination letter every year to redetermine their homeless status.
Question 2: Who writes a determination letter?
A McKinney Vento district liaison can write a letter for a student, or another district staff member such as a teacher, social worker, school psychologist may also write a determination letter for the student. As of November 14,2022 under the FAFSA Simplification Act additional individuals such as director or a designee of a director of a program funded under a TRIO or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for an Undergraduate program (“GEAR UP”) are authorized to write determination letters (More Information on changes under the FAFSA Simplification Act here). Email templates for requesting a determination letter can be found here.
Question 3: How does a student receive college application waivers?
Many colleges may offer fee waivers when initiating a college application. The Common Application (or "common ap") which is used by many institutions offers fee waivers as well. Your high school counselor or McKinney-Vento liaison may have more information on fee waivers for college applications. For ACT Fee waivers more information can be found here. For SAT fee waivers please visit the site here where you will find more information.