The value of a college degree is undisputed. A 2010 report from the College Board estimates that, among full-time workers, high school graduates earned a median annual income of $33,800; workers with an associate’s degree, $42,000; and, workers with a bachelor’s degree, $55,700.

Chapter 4 | Federal Financial Aid

The information included on this webpage was excerpted from Chapter 4 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at

thinking thought bubbleChapter 4, Part 5 | Independent Homeless Students and the FAFSAyellow horizontal line

Who are Unaccompanied Homeless Youth?

According to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA), unaccompanied homeless youth (UHY) qualify as independent students for purposes of the FAFSA. As such, UHY only need to provide information about their own income and assets, not those of their parents, and do not need to have a parent signature on their FAFSA. According to the FSA’s Application and Verification Guide (AVG), UHY is defined as follows:

  • Unaccompanied: Not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian
  • Homeless: Lacking fixed, regular, and adequate housing
  • Youth: A student who is 21 years old or younger or still enrolled in high school as of the date he signs the FAFSA (Note: Students who are unaccompanied and homeless, but are 22 or 23 years old, may qualify for independent student status for FAFSA purposes through a Dependency Override.)

A student who is unaccompanied, at risk of homelessness, and self-supporting also qualifies as an independent student on the FAFSA. At risk of homelessness and self-supporting are defined as follows:

  • At risk of homelessness: When a student’s housing may cease to be fixed, regular, and adequate; for example, a student who is being evicted and has been unable to find fixed, regular, and adequate housing.
  • Self-supporting: When a student pays for his own living expenses, including fixed, regular, and adequate housing

Who Can Determine if a Student is an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth?

According to the CCRAA, the following role groups are authorized to determine that a student meets the definition of UHY, or unaccompanied, self-supporting youth at risk of homelessness:

Additional Information

For a more detailed discussion of the issue of independent student status for UHY, please reference Chapter 4 of College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers, available in its entirety at Additional topics include:

  • Dependent or Independent?: The FAFSA vs. the IRS
  • Documenting Independent Student Status for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
  • Determinations of Independent Student Status for College Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors
  • Disputing a Determination of Student Status
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Students Ages 22 and Over

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