Chapter 3Maximizing Financial Aid for Foster Youth
As detailed in Chapter 6, (Campus Policy Recommendations), it is essential for campuses to identify a Foster Youth Campus Liaison who can work with financial aid advisors to meet the needs of students from foster care. Please consider these additional best practice strategies that will help maximize financial aid packages for foster youth to address the full cost of attendance.
- Claiming Financial Independence from Parents
Students are eligible to claim independence from their parents if they have spent any time in foster care after their 13th birthday.
When a student claims orphan status, it may be more difficult to prove their financial independence. The Federal Student Aid Office encourages Financial Aid Administrators to use their professional judgment in determining if it is appropriate to override a student’s dependency status after evaluating the student’s specific situation. Examples of situations where students may claim orphan status include having one deceased parent, and having been abandoned by the other parent.
Student Eligibility Scenarios
- Follow-up Communication to Student Applicants
As students from foster care enroll in school and self-identify, campus administrators should consider sending follow-up emails, texts, letters and other communication to confirm receipt of their status. Remind students to begin collecting the necessary documentation that will demonstrate they meet financial aid eligibility requirements. Share a checklist that details the acceptable forms of documentation.
- Financial Documentation
IRS tax records are among the essential documents requested of students when they apply for financial aid. However, many students are exempt from filing federal tax returns because their annual income falls below the minimum threshold required for reporting. Financial aid advisors should explain to students what to do in lieu of providing tax forms to avoid unnecessary application delays. For example, students may request an IRS Verification of Non-filing Letter.
Foster youth, orphans, and other independent students are considered financially independent from their parents, and are not required to provide any parental income verification. In fact, foster youth are not required to include any parent information on financial aid applications. However, students may be unaware of this exemption, and often submit their parents’ names when filling out the FAFSA. This error may trigger verification requests by the financial aid office and delay processing. Financial aid officers should encourage students to amend their financial aid applications to remove parental information from the biography section.