FAFSA Resources and Tools

The FAFSA Challenge: Promising Practices to Increase Financial Aid Access Among Foster Youth

Every year, billions of dollars in federal and state financial aid go unused because eligible students do not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA). According to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), just 53 percent of California’s high school seniors in the class of 2019 completed the FAFSA or CADAA.1 Foster youth in particular, who overwhelmingly meet eligibility criteria for financial aid, do not receive the full aid for which they are eligible. For example, only 49 percent of first year foster youth students at community college received a Pell Grant last year, the largest form of federal financial aid, and just 14 percent received a CalGrant.2 This low receipt rate is despite 78 percent meeting the income criteria for these financial aid sources. With education a key driver toward financial stability in adulthood, and receipt of financial aid crucial to enrolling and persisting in college for youth from low-income backgrounds, foster youth need and deserve maximum access to financial aid.

In response to this, in 2017, John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY), in partnership with the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), launched the California Foster Youth FAFSA Challenge. The FAFSA Challenge is a statewide campaign to increase the number of foster youth who are prepared for success as they matriculate from high school into college by ensuring that foster youth are accessing financial aid. From this effort, a number of best practices were identified, and this publication documents these strategies in order to inform foster youth FAFSA/CADAA completion efforts in the years to come

Updated March 2020

Conversation Starters and Motivational Responses to Encourage Foster Youth Students to Attend College Amid the Pandemic

With both college and financial aid applications in decline, there is growing concern that high school students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are postponing or altogether canceling their plans to attend postsecondary institutions during the Fall of 2021. This is particularly disconcerting when considering the research on foster youth students which indicates that those who delay enrollment in community college for one year or more after leaving high school are 40 percent less likely to persist through graduation

These conversation starters and responses can help adult supporters to
better engage foster youth students in discussions around college planning amid
the pandemic.

Updated March 2021

High School Counselor Foster Youth FAFSA Challenge Toolkit

Youth with experience in the foster care system often face challenges navigating the financial aid process during their senior year of high school. Completing the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA) is a critical step to have access to thousands of dollars in financial aid for college. High school counselors can play a significant role in supporting foster youth to complete the FAFSA successfully.

John Burton Advocates for Youth, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Education Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program, developed this toolkit for high school counselors as they support foster youth complete the FAFSA. Items in this toolkit include a Foster Youth and FAFSA completion tips sheet, commonly used child welfare terms, and frequently asked questions high school counselors may encounter.

Updated March 2020

After the FAFSA Checklist

Filling out the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application (CADAA) is just the first step in securing the best financial aid package. This youth-friendly checklist outlines the other critical steps to ensure that students receive their financial aid as well as helpful resources if students need assistance.

Updated March 2021

Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth

The financial aid process no longer has to feel intimidating and confusing; the student-friendly JBAY Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth takes the mystery out of applying for and keeping financial aid. This comprehensive guide begins with an explanation of different types of financial aid available, includes a step-wise guide to completing the FAFSA, tips on what to do after the FAFSA to ensure maximum aid awards, and explains how to stay in good standing and keep getting financial assistance for school.

Updated November 2020

FAFSA Visual Guide

The “Visual Guide” is intended to compliment Part 3 of the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth, found within pages 6-10, with screen shots of the actual FAFSA application and detailed instructions.

Updated October 2020

Completing the FAFSA: A How-To Guide for Assisting California Foster Youth

This was the first part of JBAY’s two part “how-to” webinars to assist those working with foster youth to successfully complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This webinar reviews the FAFSA, page by page, including detailed instructions on how eligible youth can qualify as independent students for the purposes of financial aid. Presenters also provided information on key steps to take after the FAFSA or California Dream Act Application is completed to access maximum financial aid!

Updated October 2020

FAFSA Poster 1

Updated October 2020

FAFSA Poster 2

Updated October 2020

IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter

This document reviews steps on how to obtain a IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter for people who do not file taxes to verify their non-filing status to a college or university.

Updated October 2020