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HIGHER ED: At Sen. Murray’s Urging, Education Dept. To Simplify FAFSA Form For Homeless Students


Changes Will Revise Language “Inconsistencies & Burdensome” Documentation Requirements; Easing Access To Apply For & Receive Financial Aid


Washington Post: “The Department of Education is revising the federal financial aid application to make it easier for homeless college students to access loans and grants, in response to requests from Sen. Patty Murray.” LINK


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded strong steps by the Department of Education to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to help more unaccompanied homeless students apply for and receive the financial aid necessary to pursue a higher education.


“I am very pleased that the Department has announced a strong step forward to tackle some of the barriers that unaccompanied homeless students face in accessing higher education,” said Senator Murray. “I have heard from students in Washington state and across the country, and have been pressing for answers and action about the serious roadblocks these students face in applying for and receiving financial aid, so I’m particularly glad to see that the Department is correcting inconsistencies and burdensome requirements on the FAFSA form. These are important ‎actions to help more unaccompanied homeless students pursue a college degree and achieve their dreams, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the Administration to ensure students of all walks of life have the chance to further their education and succeed.”


In a letter responding to inquiries by Senator Murray, Secretary of Education John King announced immediate improvements to the current 2016-17 FAFSA form, and two major changes to the 2018-19 FAFSA form. Proposed by Senator Murray in February and May letters, the Department will remove the definition of “youth” from the paper version of the FAFSA and change the way the online FAFSA processes applications from 22- and 23-year-old applicants who indicate that they are homeless or at risk of being homeless.


In May, Senator Murray released a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on actions needed to help unaccompanied homeless students pursue and succeed in higher education. The report found that these students pursue a college degree at lower rates and face numerous obstacles, including burdensome documentation and verification processes, and rigid age requirements that hinder their ability to obtain critical resources—which further underscores the importance and significance of today’s actions regarding the FAFSA form.


Senator Murray has made it her priority to address the needs of students struggling with homelessness, including introducing legislation to help these students succeed in school, removing barriers and provide support for homeless students in higher education, and ensuring youth who have experienced homelessness have access to affordable housing while pursuing an education.