Higher Education Act
About the Act
The Higher Education Act (HEA) is a federal law that guides the administration of federal higher education programs. Its purpose is to strengthen the educational resources of U.S. colleges and universities and provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary education. The HEA governs student aid programs, federal aid to institutions of higher education, and oversight of teacher preparation programs.
The HEA designates unaccompanied homeless youth, as defined by Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as independent students. This designation allows unaccompanied homeless youth to apply for federal financial aid without a parent signature or consideration of parent income and assets in the calculation of the student’s federal aid package.
Regulations and Guidance
- Download the U.S. Department of Education's Questions and Answers: Federal Student Aid and Homeless Youth fact sheet
- Download the U.S. Department of Education's Application and Verification Guide (click the Federal Student Aid Handbook award year, then Application and Verification Guide); see Chapter 5 - Special Cases for specific references to unaccompanied homeless youths
- View the U.S. Department of Education's Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) GEN-22-02: Use of FAFSA Data to Administer Federal Programs (Jan 2022)
- View the U.S. Department of Education's Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) GEN-22-15: FAFSA Simplification Act Changes for Implementation in 2023-24 clarifying the timing of implementation of the Act's homeless-related provisions (Nov 2022)
- View the U.S. Department of Education's Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) GEN-23-06 Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Determinations providing guidance on implementing changes to the Higher Education Act made by the FAFSA Simplification Act (Apr 2023)