Michigan's College Access Blog

Identifying Students Eligible for McKinney- Vento

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. School personnel are encouraged to help identify students, as cases occur, who are in situations of homelessness. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires by law that schools identify students experiencing homelessness so that they can coordinate with other entities and agencies to provide them with their McKinney-Vento rights and services.

Identifying students that are by definition homeless can be a tricky situation as the word "homeless" evokes stereotypes. However, using discreet sensitivity and awareness, school faculty and staff can provide assistance and guidance to those who are eligible for the McKinney-Vento services.

Children and youth under the McKinney-Vento Act are those who lack fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. In many cases students, parents or caregivers are asked to describe their living situation when filling out a residency or enrollment form from the school which is sent out once or twice a year.

Housing situations may frequently change for homeless students during the school year. Homeless students may be hard for school staff to identify particularly if the student or family does not inform the school. Front office staff, teachers, aides, school nurses, cafeteria staff, bus drivers and administrators as well as fellow students should understand the situations of homelessness that might indicate a student is lacking permanent house. Some situations to look for include youth who are:

  • sharing the housing with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or family crisis;
  • living in motel, hotels, trailer parks, camping grounds due to lack of adequate alternative accommodations;
  • living in emergency or transitional shelters;
  • awaiting foster care placement; or
  • forced to leave home or run away.

Some students may be afraid of identifying themselves as homeless due to fears of stigma or negative repercussions. It is the responsibility of school faculty and staff to be key members of the school district's McKinney-Vento identification team and notify the school's Local Homeless Education Liaison of eligible students. Common signs that faculty and staff can recognize and help the school's Local Homeless Education Liaison identify students who may be experiencing homelessness include:

  • Attendance and transportation problems
  • Reactions/statements by student, parent or guardian
  • Social and behavioral concerns
  • Lack of continuity of education
  • Poor health/nutrition
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of personal space after school

Schools serve as important places for students who are experiencing homelessness to find assistance. Lack of stable housing can be confusing and difficult to explain. Resources are available through local schools and community agencies to help families in these situations, as well as advocate for those who need assistance.

NAECHYHomeless students are frequently eligible for assistance to pay for college. If an identified McKinney Vento student is determined to be unaccompanied, they are automatically eligible to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as an independent student, as they are not in physical custody of a parent or guardian. For more information on FAFSA completion for students that are experiencing homelessness go to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth's website.

For more information on how to connect with your local Homeless Education Liaison, please visit the Michigan Department of Education website.

Related Links:

luke schroederGuest Author: Luke Schroeder, AmeriCorps VISTA, Capital Area College Access Network

Posted: Nov. 11, 2015 - modified with permission from the Capital Area College Access Network

Consortium of Michigan Veterans Educators: Improving Veterans' Access to Education

"On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free." - Dan Lipinski, IL Congressman 

Consortium of MI Veterans Educators

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 19,012 Michigan college students used VA educational benefits during the 2013-2014 academic year. It is estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 additional veterans will return to the state of Michigan by 2024. These veterans will reintegrate into civilian life in a number of ways. For many, seeking education with the help of their VA educational benefits will be the first step in re-entering the civilian workforce. The Consortium of Michigan Veterans Educators seeks to increase the number of military-affiliated students taking advantage of educational benefits in Michigan, and ensure they receive the support needed to successfully attain and complete their education. 

The CMVE was established in 2010 and includes representatives from all 43 public colleges and universities in the state of Michigan. It offers a rich network of professionals with varied expertise on issues facing military-affiliated students. This collaborative network provides ongoing professional development opportunities, relevant information and resources, and demonstrations of best practices to support all of Michigan’s military-affiliated students. After a recent $500,00 Kresge Foundation grant award, the CMVE stands readier than ever to help institutions build capacity and remove barriers to degree completion for military-affiliated students.   

Student veterans are presented with unique challenges as they transition from military service to the classroom. In addition to potential service-related physical injuries or mental trauma, they may experience difficulty when transitioning from structured military life to more loosely-defined civilian life. While campuses are doing their best, lack of resources or know-how to address the complexities involved in serving military-affiliated students can mean they face additional barriers and lower rates of educational attainment than non-veterans. CMVE aims to help institutions gain capacity to address these issues. 

In order to provide military-affiliated students with the best possible education-related services, CMVE participates in the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit, and also is exploring collaborations with other relevant national organizations and initiatives to enhance its critical partnerships. This includes strengthening relationships with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and MCAN’s Michigan Veteran Education Initiative. The consortium also looks forward to further integrating into the state’s six Veterans Community Action Teams and the newly formed Student Veterans of Michigan. 

CMVE members are passionate about celebrating our national heroes in pursuit of higher education and invite you to keep up with our activities! Here’s how you can get involved: 

  • Share your feedback on areas of success or challenge for military-affiliated students in higher education so we know what’s working and can help overcome service gaps on your campus.
  • Join the CMVE listserv (send a request to Katie at the email shown below) and LinkedIn group (search for CMVE).
  • Faculty and staff at postsecondary institutions are also invited to serve on one of CMVE’s subcommittees, including the newest committee on Academic Credit.

 To learn more, contact Director of Veteran and Transfer Initiatives Katie Giardello by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


KatieGiardelloAuthor: Katie Giardello, director of veteran and transfer initiatives, Michigan Center for Student Success, Michigan Community College Association 

Posted: Nov. 5, 2015

College Application Week 2015 Has Arrived

The best week of the year is here!

Carrollton candy 637x800 CAW2015 1
Candy-bar prizes are awarded at Carrollton High School. A college-themed sign is on display at Fowlerville High School. 

Michigan College Application Week, Oct. 26 – 30, is an initiative in which schools set aside time and space during the school day to give every graduating senior the opportunity to apply to college. Now taking place in over 40 percent of Michigan high schools, College Application Week has truly become a statewide movement. (It even brought so much traffic to our MCAN and KH2Go websites that they crashed!) 

Michigan College Access Network, Local College Access Networks, and high schools have spent months preparing for this week. At the state level, MCAN provides templates and trainings, how-to materials, and a variety of other resources – but high schools have raised the bar in terms of creativity and we want to highlight some of the awesome ideas we have seen so far! Rather than spotlighting just one high school, we’ll share a compilation of some of the ideas we have seen this week.

Schools are finding great ways to involve teachers in their CAW activities. Many teachers are encouraged to hang “ask me about it” fliers outside of their classroom doors, or to spend a few minutes before each class period talking about their college experience. One high school worked with an art teacher to have students design informational college posters in class – getting both students and teachers excited about upcoming CAW events.

Numerous schools are also using incentives to help motivate and encourage students to apply. Some schools choose to seek donations for large items that can be raffled off to students who complete applications. We have also found there is a lot of power in a candy bar or cookie for each student who applies! Students who submitted applications prior to CAW can still receive incentives for participation by wearing college gear, answering college-trivia questions, guessing the school associated with a fight song playing over the intercom, or by taking quizzes about college-going preparations.

 Wyandotte Pumpkins MSU
Roosevelt High School captures the excitement of College Application Week and Halloween by displaying college-themed pumpkins.

In addition to the application component, one major purpose of College Application Week is to celebrate the application process and the students who take part in it! This is where schools really take it to the next level – some examples of activities we’ve seen are face painting, door-decorating contests,  and even a college-food relay race, where “teams of four will compete to see who can eat a series of 'college foods' (Ramen noodles, Slim Jim, soda/coffee, etc.) to simulate life on the go at school.”

Finally, CAW site coordinators have figured out where their students are and how to reach them most effectively. College Application Week Snapchat stories are generating a TON of excitement in the MCAN office (and definitely at schools too), and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been blowing up with the #IApplied and #ReachHigher hashtags!

College Application Week always seems to sneak up on us, but as usual schools are so prepared and so impressive! We could not be more grateful for our partnership with these wonderful, creative people – college-going culture is off the charts in Michigan.


Christ Taylor headshot 2013Author: Christi Taylor, MCAN director of statewide initiatives and special projects

Posted: Oct. 28, 2015

Increase K-8 College Aspiration: Participate in MI College Application Week

 Show me the money
 This bulletin board is one of many college-themed items on display during Harbor Lights Middle School College Application Week.

High schools from throughout the state of Michigan will be celebrating College Application Week Oct. 26-30. It is a week developed by the Michigan College Access Network and modeled from a national effort, that encourages  all seniors to complete and submit at least one college application. Many Michigan colleges reduce or waive application fees for this week to make it even easier for students to apply. At Harbor Lights Middle School, we have seized the opportunity to design experiential and developmentally appropriate activities that tie in to this week and capitalize on the attention generated by West Ottawa High School’s participation as a host site.

In the daily announcements, students learn the definition of a different college-related vocabulary word. On Friday, students in homerooms compete in a quiz game using a shared Google spread sheet to test their learning of these words. The words might be scrambled, or clues may be given so classes guess at the answers, then type them into the sheet—all in a live format that each class is following on their projector and screen.  Homerooms also create college-themed doors for a door-decorating contest.  Some have chosen to highlight the students’ goals, a specific college, or college rivalry. The ideas for doors are endless. College-themed swag prizes are awarded to several participating classes at the end of the games and contest.

 Every Harbor Lights Middle School staff member has been asked to display a sign outside their door or office that advertises where they went to college. During College Application Week, we ask teachers to specifically talk about their signs, college experiences, ways that they paid for college, as well as answer questions that the students may have.

Another fun day during College Application Week is a college-apparel day.  Students and staff are asked to wear their college gear. This is a great conversation starter for teachers to again talk about college access, their college experience, and answer any students’ questions.

In March each year, we host College Week, which involves a few more age-appropriate activities. This week includes a day in which all three of our grades participate in college- and career-focused activities that we call College, Career and Life Ready Day. During our school’s most recent event, homerooms were assigned a college that was playing in the NCAA basketball tournament and asked to create a door around that theme. A bracket was created and hung in our main hallway and updated as the games progressed. We titled our bracket display, “College Knowledge Championship.”

Another activity that gets Harbor Lights students involved is a college-related Bingo game that is played like a scavenger hunt. Students are asked to find one person for each of the descriptors in the square.  Examples include, find someone who went to college out of state, find someone who received a scholarship to help pay for college, etc.  Students turn completed Bingo cards in to the office and a random drawing is held with college swag as the prizes for the winners.

There are so many options for promoting college aspiration among students in grades K-8. In addition to the ideas above, schools might consider a college-apparel rivalry day.  Students and staff could wear attire that represents their favorite college rival, and homeroom teachers could tally up the “votes.”  At the end of the day, the counselor or principal could announce the winner by playing the fight song over the P.A. system. If you have a daily or weekly video announcements show for students, work with that teacher or class to develop segments about your college activities; interview your school’s college adviser if you have one; or consider speaking about your own college experiences.

With middle school and elementary school students, exposure to basic college-access information and terminology, coupled with engaging and fun experiences, can begin building their college aspirations and growing their college knowledge. Together we can Reach Higher!

Join Ann and MCAN for a Twitter Chat about K-8 College Aspiration!

Would you like to learn more about building college awareness and aspiration among students in grades K-8? Do you have experiences to share, or questions about the topic? Join MCAN Director of Statewide Initiatives and Special Projects Christi Taylor, and Harbor Lights Middle School Counselor Ann Harris for a Twitter chat about K-8 participation in College Application Week.

The discussion will take place Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Plug in using the #K8CAW hashtag.

To send us your questions in advance, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Ann HarrisGuest Author: Ann Harris, MA, LPC, NCC, and proud member of the first cohort in MCAN’s School Counselor Postsecondary Planning and Training Course, 2013-14

Posted: Oct. 13, 2015

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