- Department of Education officials have announced measures to increase access to federal college loans and grants for homeless students.
- The new rules provide guidance on age limits and verification of homelessness for students filing Free Applications for Federal Students Aid, and who provide a signature from a federally-funded shelter or outreach director.
- Policy changes are expected to begin in the 2018-19 academic school year
The steps taken by the Department of Education to help homeless students are much-needed, but leave some gaps in language and consideration for all scenarios that lead to homelessness. Many homeless families live with family members or friends on a rotating basis, or do not feel comfortable living in shelter facilities, which proposed guidance does not address.
For colleges and universities, the challenge will lie in addressing the needs of students who are actually admitted to school but can still claim homeless status. Students who live and work at school year-round, even during summer breaks, may not be eligible for shelter verification. With the number of homeless families on the increase, and the spotlight on colleges to address student needs, these factors may put new responsibility on officials in student housing or counseling to help students convince the federal government that they do not have a home.