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How Can We Support Students Experiencing Homelessness in Preparation for and Transition to Postsecondary Education?

How Can We Support Students Experiencing Homelessness in Preparation for and Transition to Postsecondary Education?

Date of the Event: September 21, 2023 | Kailanya Brailey, Christina Dukes, Nikevia Thomas, Jessica Webster
Show Notes:

The webinar series “Are ALL the Children Well? 2.0” continued with “How Can We Support Students Experiencing Homelessness in Preparation for and Transition to Postsecondary Education?” on September 21, 2023.



Through a presentation on policies and practices that can support students experiencing homelessness in preparation for and transition to postsecondary education, participants:

  • Recognized the important role schools play in working with students experiencing homelessness
  • Learned how to work with students experiencing homelessness to understand their postsecondary pathway options and choose a pathway in line with their goals
  • Gained an understanding of the college preparation process for students experiencing homelessness respective to supports, challenges, and opportunities

Nikevia Thomas:

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for our Are All the Children Well? 2.0 Family Engagement and Homeless Education series. This is the fourth session, and today we are focused on how can we support students experiencing homelessness in preparation for and transition to post-secondary education?

Please, as you come in, please share in the chat where you’re joining us from today. We get people from all over, all over the...

Nikevia Thomas:

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for our Are All the Children Well? 2.0 Family Engagement and Homeless Education series. This is the fourth session, and today we are focused on how can we support students experiencing homelessness in preparation for and transition to post-secondary education?

Please, as you come in, please share in the chat where you’re joining us from today. We get people from all over, all over the world, actually. I’m in Maryland at the moment, but I would like to hear where you all are from. Wonderful, and also feel free to share what organizations you’re representing.

My name is Nikevia, by the way. I don’t think I led with that. Some of you might just … seeing my face for the first time. I’m Nikevia. I’m the Senior Specialist at MAEC, and I’m so happy that you’re here with us today.

So I see Pittsburgh here, Pennsylvania, Arizona. Where else? I saw Minnesota. Welcome. Make sure you’re sharing to everyone and not just the host and panelists. Welcome, everybody. Virginia. Indiana. Welcome. Nice to see you all. Oklahoma City. Welcome.

All right. Make sure when you’re sending your messages that you are sending them to everyone and not just the host and panelists. You can send us stuff if you have questions, but make sure you’re sharing with everyone.

Oh, okay. People from Washington, DC. California. Welcome. It’s morning still. Illinois.

Okay. So let’s move on in the interest of time. Thank you, everybody, again. We are MAEC, and we are a champion of innovation, collaboration, and equity. I would like to turn it over to my colleagues, Kailanya and Jessica, who will take it from here.

Jessica Webster:

Thanks, Nikevia. First, we would like to welcome you and begin by just reviewing our webinar etiquette for today. We would ask that you use the chat box to engage with other participants. Just click on that chat icon at the bottom or the top of your toolbar. Please do not use the raise hand function. There will be a question and answer towards the end of the webinar, so please feel free to put any questions that you want panelists to answer into the Q&A box that you will see on your toolbox.

We do have live captions available, so you should see an icon that says CC Live Transcript on there. If you are in need of closed captioning, please hit that Live Transcript, and it should appear for you. If you have live transcript already on and you do not need it, you can do the opposite by clicking on the CC closed caption button, and that will hide the subtitles for you.

So with that, we would be remiss if we didn’t thank our support team on the back end. It takes a village to run these webinars, and we absolutely couldn’t do it without them. So we’d like to thank Allegra Kogan, who serves as our Communication Associate, and she does a lot of our post-webinar support, like making sure that you get a copy of the webinar for your reference. We have Ian with us today, who works with us on our tech support. He’s amazing. We couldn’t do this without him, and of course, the lovely and wonderful Nikevia Thomas, who is our planner for these events and makes sure everything goes smoothly and does our introductions for us. So thank you so much to all of you.

With that, just a quick introduction. I’m Jessica Webster, and I’m one of your hosts for this webinar today, one of your facilitators. We will be moving you through the agenda and making sure we facilitate the question and answer at the end. I am a Senior Family Engagement Specialist on our CAFE team, which we’ll hear about in a minute. Before that, I’ve served as a principal. I have children of my own, so I’m always wearing that family engagement hat from both ends. So I’m just really pleased and privileged to be here with you today. So thank you for that.

With that, I’ll let Kailanya introduce herself and take us to the next piece of our presentation today.

Kailanya Brailey:

All right. Thank you, Jessica, and good afternoon. Good morning. Happy Thursday to all of our participants. Again, I am Kailanya Brailey. I’m a Senior Education Equity Specialist with our Center for Education Equity, and before serving with MAEC, I was a middle school principal. Also from the family engagement realm, I am also a member of our CEFAM team, which is our statewide family engagement center that serves Maine.

All right. So we can do a brief review of our agenda. Again, welcome and introduction, and then we will have our presentation from Christina Dukes with Pearl Strategies. Then we will move into our closing.

Before we begin, I would like to give you some background information about who we are and what we do, which will help us understand why we strive to connect and support all families. MAEC was founded in 1992 as an education nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to a high-quality education for culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse learners.

MAEC envisions a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels, and our mission is to promote excellence in equity and education to achieve social justice. We believe all students deserve to feel welcomed, respected, and safe at school and provided with the opportunities to thrive.

Again, this webinar is brought to you by both CEE, our Center for Education Equity, and CAFE. CEE is our Center for Education Equity and our Region One equity assistance center that operates in 15 states and territories through support from the Department of Education, and CAFE is our Collaborative Action for Family Engagement. This is our statewide family engagement center for Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Our next slide shows an image of an overview of the regions that we serve. Again, CEE serves 15 states and territories, so we reach all the way down from Maine to Kentucky and also include Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Again, CAFE serves Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Our objectives for today, our objectives call us to recognize the important roles that schools play in working with students experiencing homelessness, learn how to work with students experiencing homelessness to understand their post-secondary pathway options and choose a pathway in line with their goals, and finally, to gain an understanding of the college preparation process for students experiencing homelessness respective to supports, challenges, and opportunities.

Now for our learning and engagement today, I have the honor of introducing Christina Dukes, Founder and Principal of Pearl Strategies. Pearl Strategies is a small woman-owned education and human services consulting firm based in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Pearl primarily serves the homeless education sector and its human service partners, including child welfare, housing, homeless response, and workforce development with the goals of strengthening single program and single system design and function, school-community partnerships, and client-level outcomes.

Christina has 20-plus years of experience in homeless education, migrant education, and cross-systems partnership work. Prior to founding Pearl, Christina worked at the National Center for Homeless Education, the U.S. Department of Education’s federal Homeless Education technical assistance center for 18 years, most recently as its Director of Partnerships and Policy. She received her BA in Spanish from Tulane University and her MA in Latin American Studies from Vanderbilt University. Christina, it is a pleasure to have you here with us today, and I will gladly turn it over to you.

Christina Dukes:

Thank you so much, Kailanya. I’m so happy to be here, and let me go ahead and pull up my slides. I just want to say a quick thank you to MAEC for inviting me to be a part of this series, and it’ll be my pleasure to share information with you today that I hope will be helpful to you in your work.

So again, we’re here to talk about how can we support students experiencing homelessness in preparation for and transition to post-secondary education?

Here’s where we’re headed today. I wanted to share a little bit of information with you about the research base on the relationship between education and homelessness, and it’ll really drive home the key role that education can play in breaking cycles of poverty and homelessness.

Let’s also talk about helping students choose a post-secondary pathway. Many students experiencing homelessness may not have been … They’re dealing with so many challenges both in school and outside of school that they may not really have received the individualized attention that may be helpful to them to understand all the possible post-secondary pathways available to them and to make a choice that’s the right fit for them.

We’ll also talk about helping students cover post-secondary education expenses and access needed supports. I did weave some Q&A and discussion throughout. I hope the information I share with you will be interesting, but I also know it’s interesting to hear from other people, too. So hope you’ll chime in during the Q&A and some of the discussion questions through the chat.

Let’s look first at the relationship between education and homelessness. We’re going to start with a general concept that many of you may have heard of, but it’s often referred to as the education premium. Basically what that means is that people with higher levels of education are likely to have a lot more positive outcomes, things like they’re likely to have higher levels of income. They’re more likely to have access to employer-provided benefits, more likely to move up the socioeconomic ladder, less likely to be unemployed, and less likely to be receiving public benefits.

I have received questions related to issues of equity and how it applies to the education premium. So the education premium does hold true across gender, race, and ethnicity, but that’s not to say that inequities don’t still exist.

Moving a little bit more specifically and focusing on students experiencing homelessness, there was research that came out. Maybe you’ll just drop in the chat a yes if this is research that’s familiar to you. It came out of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. It was called the Voices of Youth Count. It was a very unique national-level look at the issue of youth homelessness that we really hadn’t seen before. So any of you familiar, if you just want to say yes? If not, this will be new information for you.

They looked at the relationship between certain risk factors and what might make a particular subpopulation be at a higher risk for homelessness. You’ll see the top six risk factors here on your screen. I think we in the education field thought we’d see education. Okay. Lisa saying yes, she’s familiar with it. We figured we’d see education show up somewhere, but I was surprised to see that it’s actually lack of a high school credential that places a youth at the highest risk for homelessness.

But there are also other young people at risk for homelessness, low income, Black or African American, unmarried parenting youth, Hispanic non-white youth, and LGBT youth. But again, just driving home the point that a high school diploma and, as we’re going to discuss today, some form of post-secondary educational credential is critical to equipping young people to exit homelessness.

Also from the Chapin Hall research, if you can’t focus on all the detail along the left, the take-home point here is that there is a cyclical or bi-directional relationship between housing and education. The stability and safety of a student’s housing affects their ability to engage in education, and the student’s ability to engage and advance educationally affects their ability, as you can see now along the left, for them to access the credentials they need to secure living wage employment and gain access to the income and safety nets they need to exit homelessness for good.

Hope you don’t mind if I add a tad of levity. I do love a good SpongeBob meme. I remember SpongeBob from when my nieces were growing up, so you might say, “That’s great. You just shared all this research for me, so just cut to the chase.” So here’s the cutting to the chase.

Education helps break cycles of poverty and homelessness, and yet students experiencing homelessness may face unique barriers and challenges that can place their education at risk. So it’s on us as educators and community providers to provide the intentional supports that they need to help them succeed in education, and that investment that we make as educators and service providers will have a return on investment.

So I’ve mentioned that young people experiencing homelessness may face some unique barriers to education. I’d like to invite you to interact and share your thoughts in the chat. What are some of the educational barriers and challenges that youth experiencing homelessness may face, either in general or in accessing and succeeding specifically in higher education? What do you think? I’ll give you a moment to type your responses.

Oh, Tashine from DC. Hey, Tashine. Glad you made it. Natasha, transportation to and from school. Absolutely. Lack of access to reliable transportation can affect school attendance, which affects school performance. Tashine is mentioning financial documents. You could be referring to documents that may be requested for school enrollment or I think in terms of post-secondary education documentation that may be needed for FAFSA or to access student aid. TT says access to community resources. That’s right. A lot of times, due to either the mobility of homelessness or just not knowing, being caught up in the stressors of life, there may be help available, but these youth don’t know about it.

Melissa, issues with completing the FAFSA. Absolutely, and we’ll discuss that specific topic in a little more detail a little bit later. Beverly, lack of educational stability and mobility. That’s absolutely right. When you’re moving between schools, how does that affect your ability to advance educationally, to graduate, to meet graduation requirements? Great answers. Access, yes, Suzanne, to wifi and internet. That’s right. Access to the technology and school supplies needed to do well in school. Lack of financial support, lack of a support system. That’s right. Access to documents, meeting deadlines related to college attendance. You guys are really just right on time, so keep the comments coming. You guys have a lot of great insights.

Just to summarize where my mind was at when I was thinking about that question, and you mentioned many of these, here are some of the barriers and challenges that these students may face. So first of all, no surprise, basic needs insecurity interferes with educational aspirations and progress. You know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If we are focused on our basic needs not being met, it makes it very difficult to focus on other things that seem less pressing in the moment.

As someone mentioned, that educational mobility affects progress. If you’re changing school districts, it’s a new teacher. It’s new classes. It’s new routines. It’s new graduation requirements. It’s a lot of times missed days of school until transportation is arranged. So basic needs and security interferes.

Also, these students may not have been exposed to either a lack of college-going culture within their family or maybe even in their school community. Many students experiencing homelessness are first generation, so that means they don’t have the sibling, the parent, or another close, supportive adult who can walk them through the process.

Related to that, I’ve heard many youth experiencing homelessness just admit, “I have questions about my own ability to belong and succeed in post-secondary education. Am I equipped? I feel different. Do I belong here? I don’t really want people to know maybe some of the things I’ve dealt with.” So there’s some belonging questions.

Also, as I mentioned before, students may not be aware of the variety of post-secondary pathway options. A student coming out of high school who maybe struggled in high school may not be super gung-ho to like, “Let me just ride away, enter into four years of college, when the last four years of high school were a big struggle” or “Wow. That sounds expensive” or “I’m not even sure what I should be studying” or “I’m not sure if I belong.” So there may be very limited options that a young person thinks is available to them. Really, there are quite a few options.

There may be concerns over very real or perceived financial barriers, and then again related to Maslow’s hierarchy, deprioritizing education in favor of work or other very pressing responsibilities.

Imposter syndrome, Melissa said. That’s right. I saw this on Twitter not too long ago, and I was like, “Honestly, it’s said so simply, but so powerfully, and I just don’t think I could have said it better.” Post-secondary pathways cannot be a way out of poverty if they are not designed to support people while they are in poverty.

So that was a quick introduction to the relationship between education and homelessness. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to share them in the chat or in the Q&A, and I’ll give you a few moments there and take a look to see what might be coming in.

As people are typing their questions, I do see Crystal mentioned that students experiencing homelessness may not have a place to stay during breaks in college. That’s absolutely right. So if the student is staying in the dorm and the dorms close over the summer or over the holiday break, they may have nowhere to go.

Any questions? Never knowing where your next meal is coming from. That’s right.

All right. I’m not seeing any questions. You can keep them coming, though, in the chat or Q&A, but I’m going to go ahead and move us on.

So helping students choose a post-secondary pathway. I’ll just give a little bit of a background on how I came to take an interest in this particular topic. Back in my day, I think MAEC mentioned they were founded in ’92. I’m going to date myself. That was the year I graduated high school. How am I this old? But for me, there wasn’t a lot of discussion. It was like college degree or nothing. That was what was presented to me, and certainly I was fortunate to have the opportunity to get a college degree. But I wonder, would my path look different or would other people’s paths look different had we known more about all the many options available to us? I think that’s especially important for students experiencing homelessness.

Also, right around this time, and I’ll speak briefly about this in a few moments, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the CTE Act, was reauthorized and designated learners experiencing homelessness as a special population. So we started to look more at, “Hey, how are students experiencing homelessness doing in CTE pathways?” So all of this information started to come to light and really draw attention to are we letting students know about the full array of what may be available to them?

Look at all these options. So we have in recent years a very evolving post-secondary landscape. The post-secondary landscape increasingly is providing learners with flexible and stackable credential options. So the two-year or four-year college degree is a great thing, but it’s not the only game in town. There are lots of non-degree credentials, like certificates, apprenticeship certificates, industry certifications, and occupational licenses that are available in the post-secondary space.

I’d love to ask you, and I’m going to share some of my thoughts, but first I’d love to hear from you. Why do you think it’s good to have a variety of post-secondary degree and non-degree credential pathways available to learners? If you’d share in the chat, that’d be great.

Natasha says, “Affordability,” and Purity says, “Everyone learns differently.” That’s right. “Because everyone does not learn the same way.” Mm-hmm. “Options are empowering.” That’s right. “It is an equitable practice.” “Not all students want to go to college.” “Different needs for different careers.”

You guys really have done a great job. “Hey, they aren’t digging themselves into more debt and are actually building a savings.” “Not all careers need the same education.” That’s right. “College degrees on the increase still didn’t guarantee better wages for women of color, at least where we are in San Antonio. It was surprising and not great news.” You guys are really hitting highlights. “Learners come in different shapes and sizes and skills and areas of interest.” “Also, our economy. Does our economy need some people with four-year degrees? Sure. Does our economy also need HVAC folks and any number of credentialed folks in different areas of study?” That’s right. Also, maybe a student is like, “I don’t think I can do four years of college. I’ve got to get in, get out, and start working. So maybe a nine-month forklift operator credential is going to work for me.”

It’s all of the things you’re saying, affordability, timelines, different areas of study and interest, learners with different skills and abilities. So it’s great to have options that are empowering and, yes, shorter time for students to be in school, and schedules can be more flexible as well. That’s right. Absolutely. So you guys really did a great job, and I would co-sign your comments.

Text-heavy slides coming up on the next couple of slides. You don’t necessarily need to read every word, but when I started looking into non-degree credentials, I needed to know a little bit more about that landscape and understand it a little better. So let’s just go over the key kinds of credentials and get some examples. So I’m guessing we all are pretty familiar with post-secondary degrees, the two-year degree, the four-year degree that is provided when a student meets the degree requirements at a post-secondary institution. Example, Associate of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, or you may see an advanced degree, like a Juris Doctor or an MD or a PhD or an MA, all of those degrees.

Certificates are credentials awarded by an education institution based on completion of all requirements for a program of study. So that might be like the culinary art certificate from a local community college or a paramedic or EMT certificate.

Apprenticeship certificates are credentials earned through work-based learning and sometimes post-secondary earn and learn models. That means the student is earning income while also learning. Examples, a master brewer, an elevator installation and repair tech, plumbing, vehicle body and paint, and those can be issued by unions or educational institutions as well.

Industry certifications, this is a long one, are credentials awarded by a certification body, not a school or a government agency. So you guys might be familiar with … I think it’s the Project Management Institute or whatever. So it is a recognized official credential but usually issued through some kind of a certification body when the person demonstrates the needed skill, so like a project management certification, HVAC, supply chain professional, et cetera.

Then finally, last but not least, licenses or credentials usually issued by the government that allow the holder to practice in a specified field. An accounting license, a state accounting license, a real estate license, a nursing license, a cosmetology license. So lots of different options of different areas of study, lengths of study in the post-secondary space.

Shifting gears a little bit, wanted to show you some data, and I’m going to try to decode what you’re looking at. It’s a lot. But remember how I said the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act had been reauthorized a number of years ago and named learners experiencing homelessness as a special population, and one thing that that did was require CTE programs to collect and disaggregate data on CTE outcomes for each individual special population, including homeless students.

Now, I’m realizing I probably needed to provide a little bit more context. I wanted to get right to post-secondary, but let me just pause for a moment and say a quick word about the K-12 space for homeless education. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the key piece of federal K-12 homeless education liaisons. Homeless education, sorry, program. That is the key piece of legislation.

We have people in the K-12 space. Every school district must designate a McKinney-Vento homeless education liaison, and also, often students may be referred to as McKinney-Vento students, rather than being labeled as homeless. So when you team McKinney-Vento or MV, that refers to students experiencing homelessness.

So let’s just look from left to right, the national four-year high school graduation rate by student subgroup. I do want to mention that for the CTE data, the earliest year that that data became available was 2020-21, because that was again following the reauthorization of the federal statute. So in ’18, ’19, McKinney-Vento students in general, all homeless students in the country had a graduation rate of 68% as compared to economically disadvantaged, an 81.1% graduation rate; all students, an 84.5% graduation rate. But then let’s look and see what happens with McKinney-Vento students who are CTE concentrators, which a concentrator is defined at the state level, but in practical terms almost always means that the student took two or more courses in the same CTE pathway.

McKinney-Vento CTE concentrators had a graduation rate in 2020-21 of 91.6%, and all CTE concentrators had a graduation rate of 96.2%. So we see a pretty significant jump in graduation rates when a student is a CTE concentrator. Now, there are many speculations about why that may be the case, but it is surmised that students feel very drawn to these CTE pathways of study because they feel very practical and connected to a career pathway. They’re hands-on, so maybe it seems less abstract or maybe there’s just something very engaging and compelling about these CTE pathways of study.

In case you just wanted a quick state look, if you’re in California, shout out to the West Coast. We see very, very similar data trends. In fact, because California has already released its 2020-21 data for all categories, these data are compared all from the same year, moving left to right, again seeing the increase in high school graduation rates for CTE concentrators. Compelling stuff, in my opinion.

One last thing I want to make mention of … actually, I want to make mention of again. I’m wondering now if I should have put a slide in there. So if you’re not familiar with the K-12 homeless education space, know that in every school district in the country, it is required by the McKinney-Vento Act that the district designate a local homeless education liaison to serve as the key homeless education contact in the district. The statute actually includes essentially a job description of sorts, duties, specific duties that the liaison must fulfill. So if this is really your first introduction to homeless education and you’re like, “Who should I talk to?,” the local liaison in the school district is probably your best starting point, and the National Center for Homeless Education has links to those contact lists by state if you’d like to know who the liaison is in your district.

Additionally, the McKinney-Vento Act requires certain specific actions and supports from school counselors. It requires school counselors to provide college preparation and readiness assistance to students experiencing homelessness.

Now, when the U.S. Department of Education was reviewing ESSA, Every Student Succeeds Act state plans, that feels like a million years ago, a lot of states initially said, “Well, all of our students get help from school counselors.” The US Department of Education said back, “That’s not enough.” It’s not enough just to say, “We serve our students experiencing homelessness or our displaced students or students in transition like we do all of our other students,” because McKinney-Vento students have specific needs and challenges.

So what the guidance for our federal program says is that local liaisons and school counselors should ensure that all McKinney-Vento high school students receive information and individualized counseling regarding college readiness, college selection, the application process, financial aid, and the availability of on-campus supports, meaning let young people know once they get to college, “Look out for” … I saw someone in the chat mentioned they were with the TRIO program. “Look out for the TRIO programs. Look out for the first generation student programs. Look out for if your institution has a higher education homeless liaison or a basic needs program.” So let students know, “When you leave here, look out for these types of supports.”

I’m going to take a look in the chat here in just a second, but I’d like to hear from you again. How is your school, your district, your organization helping learners experiencing homelessness consider the full range of post-secondary degree and non-degree credential pathways? Are there any practices or strategies you would like to share in the chat?

“I just want to say,” Joanne says, “we say displaced versus homeless.” That’s completely valid. We’ve heard districts say, “We say students in transition,” or displaced students or there are any number of ways that a district can refer to McKinney-Vento students in a way that may be less stigmatizing than referring to homelessness.

Beverly, you make a really good point. She says, “We sometimes see students making pathway decisions based on trying to meet an immediate need, funding for basic needs, housing, food, clothing versus based on something they’re passionate about. This often results in the student not completing the program or completing the program, but not using the credential or degree to gain employment.” That’s right. That selection process is so critical and helping young people have an informed selection process.

Here’s another thing. I see youth experiencing homelessness may automatically be like, “I’ve got to go to community college because it’s all I can afford,” and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with community college. But also what happens a lot of times is students go to community college. Their work and other life responsibilities compete. They’re commuting in and out. They start to feel disconnected, and school falls by the wayside. So there are lots of different things to consider with students when they choose their pathway.

TC says, “I’m a new McKinney-Vento liaison. We are developing a transitional readiness for our high school students.” That’s great. Joanne, “I put in the chat earlier what we do for our McKinney-Vento students. We do it along with the counselors.” So you’re already partnering with your school counselors. If you feel like sharing this. Joanne, is there anything in particular you guys really try to focus in on with McKinney-Vento students as opposed to maybe just all students? Is there something unique to that counseling process? Okay. “No, not really.” Well, and I love that you’re supporting students. Maybe some of the things that we talk about today might help you be like, “Hey, this is something we could do that might be a little more tailored to students experiencing homelessness.”

On that note, let me just take a quick look at time. We’re doing okay on time. First of all, I want to let you know, and you’ll have these links in the handout following today’s session. When I was at NCHE, we actually partnered with Advance CTEA, a well-known national CTE organization to author Improving Equity in and Access to Quality CTE Programs for Students Experiencing Homelessness. If you’re like, “Hey, this CTE thing sounds pretty compelling. Let me learn more,” that might be a good starting place.

Then also, when I was at NCHE, I worked with my colleague Megan to develop something called Education Goals and Supports: A Guided Discussion Tool, and I’m just going to walk you through that so you can have a look and see if it might be something you want to check out. I’ll tell you the use case we developed this for, but then we found that a lot of people that accessed this tool were like, “No, we love this in high school. We love this for liaisons. We love this for school counselors.”

So initially, we were doing school community partnership work with continuums of care that were serving youth experiencing homelessness through a program called the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, and we heard their case managers, their navigators say, “We want to help students with their education goals, but we’re not school counselors, in short. We don’t know what we’re doing in that realm. Can you give us a tool that we can use to have meaningful conversations with our clients, with our youth clients?” Thus was born this tool. It is four pages, but it is intended to be a completely standalone tool. So you don’t need to go read a 15-page thing on college preparation and readiness and college-going culture that should have started in seventh grade. This is a right here, right now tool.

So the tool is broken down into four sections. I’m going to walk you through those. Just quickly, before beginning, we provide a primer, like, “What is an apprenticeship? How can I find an apprenticeship office near me? What is a career? Tell me about some of these career and technical education pathways. Also talk to me about the differences between college degrees or the difference between a certificate and a degree,” so just helping people understand the post-secondary landscape.

Then we get into the actual tool, and this was designed with some input from youth with lived expertise of homelessness. We start with some motivational interviewing-style questions, like trying to get the youth thinking about, “In a perfect world, what would you be doing in five years?” and just getting them thinking. I personally like this question. “Imagine that you had what you needed, housing, food, enough money to pay your bills, support from other people. Would you want to stay in or go back to school or a career training program?”

The goal is to find out, “Does the youth want to keep this conversation going?” If they do, then it becomes a question of, “All right. What are your interests? What are your skills?” So you ask them some thought-provoking questions, and then we’ve got right here some education and career exploration websites, a short assessment that takes about five minutes. What it is is the young person answers questions, like you ranked, “I really like this” or “This sounds really boring to me,” or whatever. The student ranks things, and then at the end, it spits out, “Hey, these might be some good career fits for you, and these are the education pathways you need to pursue to be equipped to pursue those career pathways.” If you want something a little more involved, you can do a longer interest profiler.

Also, there’s some toolkits focused specifically for a youth audience on just exploring different career pathways. “How do I finance my education? How do I evaluate different options? How do I know if it’s a career that fits me?”

Then we talk about resources for helping to pay for education and training, federal aid, institutional aid, state aid, and then you’ve got to have some next steps. So if you’re a continuum of care, this could be your case manager’s next step. All of these are editable. You can use this tool and customize it with each individual student, and then you ask the student to take next steps. So we hope this is a tool that you might use and find helpful in your work.

I’m going to go back over to my slides and pause. Let’s see if we’ve got some comments or questions. I see Jessica shared the link to the tool in the chat. Thank you so much.

TC mentioned, “Our transitional readiness team includes some community partners, like the credit union to teach financial fitness, financial management.” That’s right. Jeanette, “We have that helps parents go through the career exploration, scholarship, et cetera, and walks the campus. Then there are celebrations for the family as a whole.” I like that.

Okay, and Beverly is mentioning that the CHAFEE Education and Training Voucher program, the ETV program, “We included a payment point for student assistance, which includes a student experience assessment and a career vocational assessment, as well as creating an education plan that may include supported activities, such as a job shadow, site visits.” That’s right. Thank you for bringing to everyone’s attention the ETV is available to students who are currently in foster care or formerly were in foster care at age 16 or older. That’s a great resource. Other questions or comments?

Joanne, “I have been speaking to our local colleges and universities to see who has been appointed to work with McKinney-Vento students when they reach their campus. I have sent McKinney-Vento information to whoever the designee is so they have some knowledge of what McKinney-Vento is and what it does. I offer the knowledge I have to the university or college designee to assist with the students having a smooth transition to college life.” I love that because you’re not just helping the young person complete high school, but you’re paving the way for their next step.

On that note, currently, there are … I think it’s about nine states that require either all or at least all public institutions of higher education to appoint a higher education homeless liaison. So this concept of a liaison is spreading to the post-secondary world. It’s just not federal yet, although SchoolHouse Connection, which is a well-known advocacy organization for the field of homeless education, has been working with Congress to introduce and there has been introduced legislation that would require at the federal level a local liaison for higher ed students at all institutions of higher education.

So a year, two, three from now, we may see this be a federal requirement, but for now, it is present in some states as a legislative requirement, and in others, it’s something they’re just willingly embracing and doing. They see the need, they’re starting basic needs programs, and so it is a growing area of focus and understanding.

Any New Yorkers in the house? The State University of New York, Chancellor John King, who was the U.S. Department of Education Secretary, I believe, under the Obama administration, he’s now the chancellor at SUNY, and he has required in his 2023 policy agenda the appointing of a homeless liaison at all SUNY campuses. So if you’re in the state of New York, that might be something to make note of.

Okay. Not seeing any other questions. Let’s keep moving, and let’s talk about helping students cover post-secondary education expenses and access needed supports. Joanne, you teed me up flawlessly to talk about campus-based support, so thank you.

It’s been a while since I had to apply to college, so I had to do some Googling and remember or refresh myself on how much the application process actually can cost. Is a student taking any Advanced Placement tests? If so, it’s about $100 each. Is the student taking any of the college admissions exams, like the ACT or the SAT? Look at how much those cost. College applications on average cost about $45, and the College Board recommends that students apply to between five and eight colleges. So on the lower end, for a student applying to college, they’re probably going to be paying around $225, but it could be 1,000-plus if the student’s taking a lot of AP tests, ACT tests, SAT tests, applying to a lot of colleges. So it can be quite costly, and that in and of itself could be a deterrent for many McKinney-Vento students.

Here’s the good news, though. There are fee waivers available for almost all of those costs. Okay? For the AP tests, it is a partial national waiver available from the College Board, although some states have agreed to kick in and cover the remainder of the cost. There are waivers for the ACT test, the SAT test, and I won’t say that 100% across the board there is a waiver to cover an application for every single college in the country, but it’s quite broad, the coverage that students can have between the College Board application waiver, the National Association for College Admission Counseling Waiver, or the Common App. So the Common App has said, that’s what it sounds like, a common application that many institutions of higher ed have agreed to use, that students experiencing homelessness do not have to pay to apply to any institution using the Common Application.

Of course, individual institutions of higher education may either have a blanket policy of waivers for college application fees or if you ask them, they may be willing to waive for certain student groups. So if you’re a school counselor or a McKinney-Vento liaison and you know, “I grew up in the state of Florida. A lot of students go to FSU, University of Florida, UCF, UFF,” find out what the policies are in the most common institutions your students take interest in.

Joanne mentions that counselors can assist with waivers. That’s right. So I didn’t get too much into the process. You don’t really want to just send a student out onto the interwebs to find the waiver. The waivers are usually, excuse me, administered through official channels, like school counselors or AP exam coordinators. So definitely get your students connected with counselors.

Let’s talk about the FAFSA, or the free application for federal aid. Federal aid makes up the majority of aid received by most students, so it is critical that students fill out the FAFSA. Just a reminder, students that are applying for federal aid must complete a FAFSA for each school year for which they are seeking federal aid. Unfortunately, it’s not a one and done. It’s an every year and done. Make sure your students are going to and not or You want them on the actual official FAFSA webpage.

FAFSA timelines. Take-home point here is get in early. For the ’23, ’24 FAFSA, the one that is currently in use, it was released in October of last year. It is valid for students attending fall 2023 and spring 2024 semesters. The treatment of the summer term and which FAFSA cycle applies to aid for the summer term is institution-dependent, and it uses what is called prior prior year tax information. If anyone’s interested in more information about what that means, just drop it in the Q&A, and I’ll state a little bit more about that.

Encourage your students to fill out the FAFSA ASAP. Many states and institutions use the FAFSA to award state aid and may have earlier deadlines than the federal aid, and some aid is distributed on a first come, first serve basis. So again, please encourage your students, “The sooner you complete the FAFSA, the better.”

Now, in one of the major federal stimulus bills during COVID, there was a piece of a bill called the FAFSA Simplification Act that actually did some really good things for students experiencing homelessness, foster youth, but it also changed some terminology. So if you may have been familiar with what used to be called the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, that is now called the Student Aid Index, or SAI. Based on information submitted on the FAFSA, the Department of Education calculates the student’s SAI.

Now, there are two kind of students, or students are viewed in two different ways or categorized in two different ways when they apply for federal aid. If they’re a dependent student, that means they must report parent information on the FAFSA, and the Student Aid Index is based on the parents’ and student’s income and assets. There’s an expectation there of parent contribution to college expenses. If the student is an independent student, they do not report parent information on the FAFSA, and the Student Aid Index is based on the student’s income and assets alone, although if it’s an older married student, it would be based on the household income and assets. But what I’m setting the stage for, the discussion of federal aid for what is called unaccompanied homeless youth.

So there are actually a number of categories of independent students, if you’re married, if you’re over age 24, if you are a graduate student, if you are a veteran of the US Armed Forces, if you were in foster care at any time age 13 or later, or right down here, if you’re an unaccompanied youth who is homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, you are an independent student on the FAFSA.

Again, let’s just run that down for what that means. So students experiencing homelessness with their parents or guardian will fill out the FAFSA as a dependent student. They will include their parents’ income and assets to inform the Student Aid Index. But the good news is sometimes we’ll get questions from liaisons like, “Does that mean that students experiencing homelessness with their parents are at a disadvantage in terms of federal aid?” The answer is no, because McKinney-Vento students, obviously, they’re coming from low-income families, and so they’re likely going to qualify for the maximum amount of federal aid, even if they’re not deemed independent.

Now, for unaccompanied homeless youth, those are youth who are experiencing homelessness, so their living arrangement meets the definition of homeless, and they are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. In the higher ed context, I usually rephrase it like this. They’re not under the care of a parent or guardian, because when I was in college, I wasn’t in the physical custody of my parent or guardian. I was in a dorm a couple states away. But in that case, our unaccompanied homeless youth do apply as independent students on the FAFSA.

What does that process look like? Well, there are a handful of folks who have the authority to document that a student is an independent student. The local homeless education liaison, they must provide documentation for unaccompanied youth in their senior year in high school. They are allowed to provide subsequent-year determinations for college sophomores, juniors, and seniors if they have the information they need to make that determination. Also, directors or designees of homeless-serving programs for students receiving the program services. This was new. This was added under the FAFSA Simplification Act. We have specifically named now that directors or designees of a TRIO or GEAR UP program can document status, and a financial aid administrator at any institution of higher education can document independent status and actually must document that status for a student who can’t get a determination from another authorized party.

Now, the FAFSA Simplification Act was a lengthy piece of statute with lots of provisions about lots of different things. I’ll let you pursue the level of detail that you want to pursue based on what makes sense for you and your role, so I’m just going to give you a couple of real quick highlights. It was signed into law in late 2020. It simplifies the FAFSA application process for many student groups, including those experiencing homelessness.

So for instance, prior to the FAFSA Simplification Act, unaccompanied homeless youth had to get their independent status redetermined every year, and sometimes that was a problem and a barrier for students. Well, under the FAFSA Simplification Act, that is no longer true. Unaccompanied homeless youth status does not need to be redetermined each year.

Now, if the student’s situation changes and they’re no longer an unaccompanied homeless youth, they do have a responsibility when filling out their next year’s FAFSA to indicate their current status. But if their status has not changed, they don’t need to reprove it, redetermine it, anything like that.

If this is a topic of interest to you, our colleagues over at SchoolHouse Connection have a really great fact sheet on learning more about the FAFSA Simplification Act.

If you are one of the folks on the slide I showed a couple of minutes ago, a local liaison, a shelter director or designee, a TRIO program or a financial aid administrator, there are tools available to you to document a determination of independent status for unaccompanied homeless youth. There is no federally required tool, so you have some discretion. But many people say, “Please give me a tool that I can use.” So we have those available for you.

Another quick word on affordability. Encourage students to check with their school counselor for a scholarship list. That’s probably all electronic now. I remember paging through the hard copy back when I was in high school. Encourage your students to visit free and reputable scholarship search engines, and we’ve left some links there for you. You don’t want to just send them out. There’s all kinds of unsavory scholarship sites out there that require students to pay and guarantee aid, when all it is is an unsubsidized loan at a high interest rate or something like that. Then there are several scholarship options specific to students with current or past experiences of homelessness.

One final thing, and we alluded to this earlier, help your students consider the full picture and connect to state and institutional financial aid supports. Encourage students to consider institutions at different price points. A student might not be able to afford a particular institution, but there might be other great options. A student may start at a community college and transfer to a four-year later, but they do need to have a solid transition plan in place.

Also, and this is where some of the nuances of the research come into play, we make assumptions that community college is automatically cheaper. But for instance, in the state of California, they compare the UC system, the CSU system, and the CCT, or the community college system, and sometimes because of the high cost of housing on the private market versus the cost of staying in the dorms, it’s actually more expensive for a student to attend a community college. So just really try to do your research and encourage your students to consider different options and help them get connected to campus-based support programs as soon as possible. I know we had someone from a TRIO program or have someone joining us, so shout out to the TRIO programs, basic needs programs, first generation programs.

Joanne says, “Love SchoolHouse Connection.” So do I. Let’s see. Just looking at some of these other comments. By the way, as I’m looking at comments, feel free to drop new questions or comments in the chat or Q&A. Let’s see. “Arizona has college support hubs in our libraries to assist with delivering information and filling out applications.” That’s great. Thank you, Gabby. Shannon, “Beginning with the ’24, ’25 FAFSA form, applicants with an unaccompanied and homeless determination or unaccompanied self-supporting and at risk of homelessness youth determination will have their answer,” that’s right, “to the homeless question carried over to subsequent award years. From the ’25, ’26 FAFSA form, all applications moving forward, applicants with a previous homeless youth determination will be provided the opportunity to review.” Okay. I’m going to let you guys read that, but she’s getting back to that whole how it’s going to work, that their status doesn’t need to be redetermined and re-litigated every year. There’s going to be a carryover from one FAFSA to the next. Thank you for that helpful information.

Jeanette says, “I love Library and appreciate the shared new information from this session.” Great. I’m glad this information is helpful to you. That’s always what we want.

Okay. So that was a lot of information. I’d love to hear from you. Well, first of all, let me just pause. Any remaining questions, thoughts, comments about … We’re about done with the formal part of the presentation, so I just want to leave some space for remaining comments, remaining questions. But also, while you’re thinking of remaining questions, I’d love to hear from you. It’s always good to let your learning settle and then think about, “Well, that was great information. What am I going to do with it now?” So based on what we’ve explored today, what is one thing you’ll do differently, moving forward, to help students experiencing homelessness access higher education? I would love to hear you commit to an action step, something different, whether small or large.

Sorry. I’m just seeing Jessica. “Please don’t forget to put your questions in the Q&A section.” Sorry. I might’ve been saying chat. So yeah, please use Q&A, but we’re looking at both.

I’m going to wait. I really would love to see a couple of folks commit to something new, a takeaway, an action step, or maybe that’s a valid question, too. Is there a key takeaway from today’s session, something new you learned that caught your attention? Joanne mentioned that you do most of what was spoken about, so that’s great. TC, “We’ll use this information to help guide our transition readiness team.” That’s great.

Lily in the Q&A says, “I’m going to send a guided discussion tool to the McKinney-Vento social workers who lead the Graduation Club, which helps McKinney-Vento students who are close to failing classes or are failing classes so they can share the information proactively.” I’m so glad you’ll use that tool. I was really proud of being part of the development of that tool. Thank you.

Carolyn, “I’m a family childcare provider for infants and toddlers. I often meet young parents who are still in high school and struggling. This information is very helpful to mentor them.” That’s great, and this is a little bit of a rabbit trail, but there is in the post-secondary landscape greater attention, not at the level it should be, but to parenting students. For instance, there’s a federal program called CCAMPIS. I think it’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School or something like that. So there’s some programming at the post-secondary level that provides childcare for parenting students.

Carolyn, “Great information. We’ll be implementing a students experiencing homelessness transition plan for our graduating teen parents. I’ll use the guided discussion tool when meeting with McKinney-Vento students.” I’m so glad. I guess I’m biased, but I really like that tool.

Joanne says, “I would like more information on TRIO.” I know we have someone from TRIO on the line, if you want to type in the chat. If not, Joanne, I’m going to add my email to the chat. There is something called a TRIO Story Map, which basically is a map of the United States, and you just zoom in on where you are. You can actually click and see the different TRIO programs in your area.

“Use this information to guide discussion with coworkers and customers.” “I plan to establish a transition plan for each McKinney-Vento student.” Beverly, “I think there was an opportunity to better connect our PSEs.” Remind me what PSE … Oh. Wait. “Post-secondary [inaudible 01:02:45] maybe who do not have as much awareness of housing needs and supports with local transition age youth housing supports, community-based transitional living programs, et cetera.” Yeah.

“Try to identify colleges with a designated homeless liaison to share that information with DC students.” That’s right. Post-secondary educational institutions. Got it. TC says, “The community college system here in Kentucky has the TRIO program.” That’s great. There are TRIO programs in most, if not all, states. It’s just a question of if they’re present in all institutions. Not all institutions of higher ed have TRIO programs.

Jeanette says, “I’m interested in how this information may be considered with the child support division of DHS. There seems to be a disconnect that would be nice to bridge in this area. I love that we have led high schoolers taking college classes at high school, but turning 18 gives way to kids wanting to move to new places and can struggle within that process to be consistently housed.” I don’t know, Jeanette. You may be referring to young people with a history of foster care involvement, and there’s certainly an overlap. Some young people age out of foster care into homelessness, or we often hear from young people that the start of their homelessness began with family instability and involvement in child welfare. So there’s definitely a link there. I won’t go into too much information, but there are also different programs. The ETV program is available to foster care students. So there’s some supports that overlap both populations and then some that are separate.

Brian says, “For TRIO, the US Department of Education provides a roadmap and guidance.” Again, if you guys can’t find that easily, you’re welcome to email me, and I’ll send you that link. Looking at the time. Okay. I’m going to wrap up here on this comment. Elizabeth says, “Facilitate better coordination between the McKinney-Vento liaison and the school counselors in my district to support students. The discussion tool is helpful because I meet many high school seniors.” That’s right, and it’s like sometimes you wish that that conversation started in sixth or seventh grade. But also sometimes you just find yourself and are like, “We are here now. We’ve got to figure out what to do now.” So I really hope that tool will be helpful.

All right. We are getting close to time. You guys have been so gracious to be interactive and asking questions, and really appreciate that. I’m going to turn it back over to MAEC for some final comments and logistics.

Jessica Webster:

Christina, thank you so much for the wisdom that you have imparted on all of us, and it’s great to see in the chat that people are confident in the work that they’re doing. It’s always great to have that reaffirmed. But hopefully we also took some takeaways, and especially I think your guided discussion tool is just an amazing enhancement for our colleagues that are doing the work. So thank you so much for all the information that you shared with us today. We are honored to have you partnering with us on this webinar.

Christina Dukes:

My pleasure.

Kailanya Brailey:

Christina, again, such a wealth of information and so engaging. Thank you again for your time, and you’re so wonderful, so great that we want to have you back December. We want to go ahead and make sure that everyone knows that we will follow up with summer supports on Thursday, December 7th at 2:00 PM. We’ve thought about how powerful it is to provide supports for students experiencing homelessness over the summer, but how you all need to be provided with these resources in enough time to put a plan together to implement them. So we’re going to do this work in December so that you have the start of 2024 to get started on preparing ahead and what summer programming and supports benefit students and families experiencing homelessness. We hope you all will RSVP and join us and Christina back in December.

We can go to the next slide, and here is our contact information. Again, this webinar is brought to you in partnership with CAFE and CEE, and so we have our program managers, Dr. Rita Perez and Dr. Daryl Williams with CEE. Here is their contact information as well as how to connect with us on social media and our website. The link has actually been put in the chat already, but if you all would take some time to give us your feedback on today’s webinar, we have a survey link, if you all would take some time and give us your feedback. We want to make sure we’re bringing you the absolute best, and so if there’s anything you need us to know or if you need to affirm some of our practices, we would appreciate it. Again, the survey is in the chat.

Thank you all so much for carving out some time to be with us today. Jessica, do you have any parting words?

Jessica Webster:

I do not. Just thank you so much, and I hope the school year is starting off well for everybody. We look forward to coming together again in December.

Kailanya Brailey:

Christina did note that we do have some more time. She’s happy to hang on if you all have any lingering questions, so we do welcome you to do that. However, if you’ve gotten what you need and you’ve completed the survey, this concludes our webinar for today. Thank you again so much for your time.

Christina Dukes:

I’ll just stick on for a couple more minutes, and if there are no questions, no problem. I’m just going to look at the Q&A in the chat.

Jessica Webster:

Christina, I did see one question that we may have missed in the chat because they were going so quickly there for a minute. Someone asked, “What strategies can be used to have conversations with students who are experiencing homelessness who are with their parents versus those who are unaccompanied?” Is there a different strategy that you would use for both?

Christina Dukes:

Oh, I think I see. Okay, wait. Yeah, I think many of the conversations will be similar. Many of the considerations will be similar. I think for a young person who’s experiencing homelessness on their own, we will call an unaccompanied youth, they’re going to have … Well, a couple of things. Just be aware that the financial aid process will be different for them, like we talked about today, and also, they don’t have the family support, the family guidance. So they may feel even more on their own.

I’ve even noticed things like, well, for all McKinney-Vento students, but especially students on their own, a very high level of fear of taking on any kind of student loan. Listen, we know how student loans … that that’s a hot topic these days. I certainly had student loans back in the day, but nothing like some students are taking on now. So maybe even talking with them about understanding student loans. “How much is reasonable to take on? How much do you feel comfortable taking on as an investment in your future versus what feels like too much?” So even just financial considerations, that unaccompanied youth just aren’t going to have the support of a parent or guardian, and that can feel very isolating.

Then again, I’ve also heard for students who are with their parents, their FAFSA application will look a little different. They’ll include the parent information there. You can involve the parent in those conversations. Occasionally, we’ll hear of some complex family dynamics that are understandable, but like students who feel guilt about going to college, like, “I should stay with my family. I should work. I should help my family. It’s a luxury for me to go to college.” Sometimes money is money, and you’re just thinking about paying bills. So that’s a valuable and valid consideration, but it may be worth having a broader conversation with the student and the family, like, “Let’s think about this holistically.”

So I don’t know. Does anyone else have any thoughts about that? You’re welcome to share any thoughts in the chat.

I’m not seeing any other questions.

MAEC, I’m going to let you call it when you’re ready.

Jessica Webster:

Just making sure we don’t have any other questions in here.

Kailanya Brailey:

I was checking as well. But I think we’ve got it. We do thank you all again for being with us today. We hope to see you back on December 7th for summer supports.

Christina Dukes:

Thanks, everybody.

Jessica Webster:

Thank you all.

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