CWU News

Uncle Sam Lessens Paperwork Burden on Homeless Students Trying to Attend CWU

In a move that could further boost enrollment at Central Washington University, the United States Education Department has announced changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The simplification measures are designed to allow more unaccompanied homeless students to apply for and receive needed financial aid for higher education.

This week, Education Secretary John King announced the revisions, which apply to both the paper and online 2016-17 and 2018-19 FAFSA forms. They include removing the definition of “youth” as being 21-years-old and under to also include those that are 22 or 23, along with fine-tuning the application process for such students who indicate that they are now—or are at risk of becoming—homeless.

“This gap was problematic for students who are 22- or 23-years-old because they didn’t meet the definition of unaccompanied homeless,” said Kelley Christianson, director of CWU’s Student
Financial Services
. “That meant they had to pursue a rather invasive dependency-petition process. These students will still be required to submit documentation to verify their status and—if they don’t have documentation—a financial aid administrator can meet with them, review what they do have, and make a determination.”

Typically, between one and three dozen such students are enrolled annually at CWU, Christianson added.

The form revisions were proposed by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who came to Ellensburg to listen to concerns of CWU students.

“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,” said Murray.

A recent Government Accountability Office study found that such students face a variety of obstacles—including arduous documentation and verification requirements—that hinder their ability to obtain vital resources. It underscored the importance of the changes now being made to the FAFSA form.

“I’m particularly glad to see that the Department is correcting inconsistencies and burdensome requirements,” Murray added. “These are important ‎actions to help more unaccompanied homeless students pursue a college degree and achieve their dreams.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of radio services and integrated communications, 509-963-1487,

June 30, 2016