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The U.S. Department of Education issued a letter (PDF, 306KB) in late July to clarify the process for deciding which students qualify as unaccompanied homeless youth in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. That publication, known as a “Dear Colleague" letter, will help anyone working directly with runaway and homeless youth to verify their independent status and explain their rights under federal law as they apply for college.
Students do not have to include their parents’ signatures or financial information if they meet the definition of unaccompanied homeless youth included in the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act. Young people can also qualify as independent if they are verified as unaccompanied, self-supporting, and at risk of homelessness by an approved professional, including directors of FYSB-funded shelters.
The important question for higher education institutions to ask students is not why they are homeless but whether they have been determined to be homeless and unaccompanied by an adult, the letter says.