GAO on Barriers to College for Homeless and Foster Youth Students

May 20, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education and college financial aid offices need to remove barriers and give more guidance to homeless and foster youth to help them attend and succeed in college, says a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. This group of college students often struggles to pursue college, the GAO said, citing data showing they tend to have lower completion rates.

The federal government isn't doing enough to help, said the GAO. For example, the Education Department should create webpages tailored to homeless and foster youth so they can more easily find information about Pell Grants and other resources. Burdensome requirements by the feds and colleges also contribute to the problem, according to the report. Federal law requires homeless students to have their status verified each time they apply for federal grants and loans, for example. And colleges often require extensive documentation from these students.

The GAO recommends several fixes to the problem, including clarified guidance from the department to financial aid administrators and possible legislative action to simplify the application process for homeless students as they seek federal aid.

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