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Homeless Higher Education - Students

If you are living in any of the situations below, apart from your parents and with no financial support from them, you may qualify for additional financial aid and personal support to help you enroll in and pay for college:

  • In a shelter, motel, vehicle, or campground
  • On the street, in an abandoned building, or in another inadequate accommodation
  • Doubled-up temporarily with other people because you have nowhere else to live
  • Supporting yourself, but at risk of losing housing
  • In the dorm, but with nowhere else to live during school breaks or when dorms close.

The Colorado Department of Education and Colorado high schools and colleges offer the following information to help you enroll in college.

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Where can I get more information and help to attend college?

  1. Talk with your counselor or McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison if you are currently a high school student. List of McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaisons.
  2. Each public two- and four-year college and private four-year college in Colorado has a designated staff member called the McKinney-Vento Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to answer your questions about that college. Call or email your questions to the person listed at the college you plan to attend. List of college contacts.
  3. Call or email National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE). NCHE is the U.S. Department of Education's technical assistance and information center for homeless education.
  4. Visit the U.S. Department of Higher Education’s website.

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Can I get help to pay for college?


You can apply for financial aid in the form of grants, part-time student employment, scholarships, and student loans. Financial aid funds can help pay for college tuition and fees, books, supplies, and living expenses like housing and meals. Funds come from different sources, such as federal and state governments, individual colleges, and private donors. Follow these steps to make sure that you are considered for all types of financial aid for which you may qualify:

  1. Complete and submit an application for the College Opportunity Fund (COF). The state of Colorado provides a stipend to eligible undergraduate students who are residents of Colorado and attend one of Colorado’s public two-year community colleges, four-year public colleges or universities, or a participating private university. The stipend is paid on a per-credit-hour basis to the institution where you enroll. The credit-hour stipend amount is determined annually by the state. The online application takes just 10 minutes and only needs to be submitted once.
  2. Complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is required by all colleges to determine your eligibility for grants, part-time student employment, student loans, and certain scholarships. The FAFSA takes 45-60 minutes to complete. If you meet the status definition of “homeless and unaccompanied youth,” there is an eligibility section where you can be considered an independent student and, therefore, do not need your parents’ information or signature. You must complete the FAFSA for every school year that you want to be considered for financial aid (This will be changing in 2023). FAFSA Tips for Unaccompanied Youth Without Stable Housing (PDF)

You may need to provide documentation of your “homeless and unaccompanied youth” status to the Financial Aid Office at the college(s) where you apply from one of the following organizations:

  1. Apply for scholarships through the college(s) you would like to attend and through the free scholarship search engines at the links below. Not all scholarships require high grades or test scores; some are available for students with certain talents or those who have overcome difficult situations. Don’t overlook these valuable forms of financial aid, which you do not have to pay back. Almost all scholarships require their own application and have their own deadlines, so organize and stay on top of your scholarship search.

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What scholarships are available?

NAEHCY Scholarship Program

Many students who experience homelessness graduate from high school and wish to pursue a college education. Each year, the NAEHCY Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students who have experienced homelessness and who have demonstrated academic achievement.

Give Us Your Poor/Horatio Alger Scholarship

The Horatio Alger Colorado Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to students in the State of Colorado who have exhibited integrity and perseverance in overcoming personal adversity and who aspire to pursue higher education.


Free, general scholarship search engine

College Board

Free, general scholarship search engine

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I can't afford to pay for the ACT/SAT test fee, college admission application fee, or college housing deposit. Can I get a waiver for any of these?

Waivers are available for these types of college fees; however, you need to apply for them. Follow the appropriate step below to get a waiver application and more information.

  • I am currently enrolled in high school. Talk with your high school counselor or McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaison. List of McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Liaisons
  • I am not a high school student. Each public two- and four-year college and private four-year college in Colorado has a designated staff member called the McKinney-Vento Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to answer questions about that college. Call or email your questions to the person listed at the college you plan to attend. List of college contacts
  • Information about the fee waivers for the ACT and SAT tests:

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Can I get housing while I am going to college?

Many four-year public and private colleges and some two-year community colleges have residence halls where their students can live during the school year. Most colleges also offer meal plans as part of their residence hall accommodations. Financial aid funds may help you cover these housing and meal plan costs, in addition to other college costs. Please see the “Can I get help to pay for college?” question and answers for more information about applying for financial aid. Click here for a list of college contacts.

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Can I take college classes while I am in high school?


Your school district may have programs that allow you to enroll in college classes while you are in high school and receive college credit if you pass the courses. These programs are called Concurrent Enrollment and ASCENT. Ask your high school counselor for information.

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Are there higher education resources available if I have been in foster care?


  • If you have been in foster care after the age of 13, you may be eligible for an Education and Training Voucher (ETV)
  • If you have been in foster care after the age of 13, you may qualify as an independent student for the purposes of federal financial aid. The “Confirmation of Foster Care Dependency Form” will assist in completing this process.
  • The Denver Foundation offers a higher education scholarship for Foster Care & Emancipating Youth, which provides funds for foster care youth who are emancipated or are in the process of preparing to emancipate from the foster care system in Colorado. For more information, visit the Helen M. McLoraine Scholarship Program for Foster Care and Emancipating Youth page.
  • Bridging the Gap is a program that provides transitional housing opportunities for young adults who were in foster care. With the support of Independent Living Coaches and in collaboration with community partners, young adults are connected to supportive services to guide them as they transition to adulthood. 
  • You can find more information and resources about Foster Care Education at CDE's Foster Care Education webpage.

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