Homeless, Foster Students Higher Education Legislation Introduced

Homeless, Foster Students Higher Education Legislation Introduced

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Murray’s Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act will help make it easier for vulnerable students to enroll in and afford college

24b18ec5a9a9a766_640_collegeU.S. Senator Patty Murray (DWA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act of 2015, legislation that would remove barriers and help ensure more students from all walks of life have strong and clear pathways into and through higher education.

“For many students, higher education can be a ticket to the middle class, so it is vitally important that students from all walks of life have the chance to go to college, further their education, and succeed,” said Murray. “This legislation would remove some of the incredible barriers that homeless and foster students face in accessing higher education, and it will help ensure they have the support they need to pursue their degree.”

Murray’s legislation would ask colleges and universities to improve outreach, resources and policies for homeless and foster youth, including streamlining eligibility determinations for financial aid, providing housing options between terms, and designating a single point of contact for these students. The bill also requires the federal government to provide ways to help resolve questions about a student’s independence and ensure its programs identify, recruit, and prepare homeless and foster students for college. The bill also encourages states to grant in-state tuition rates for students who haven’t had stable residency.

This bill would require colleges and universities to do their part to improve outreach, resources, and policies for homeless and foster youth, including streamlining eligibility determinations for financial aid, providing housing options between terms, and designating a single point of contact for these vulnerable students. It also asks the federal government to provide ways to help resolve questions about a student’s independence and ensure its programs identify, recruit, and prepare homeless and foster students for college. The bill asks states to grant in-state tuition rates for those students who haven’t had stable residency. Additionally, the bill would:

  • Clarify that youth under age 24 who are determined to be unaccompanied or homeless are considered independent students and can get the full financial aid they need;
  • Streamline the FAFSA questions for homeless and unaccompanied youth
  • Ease the verification and determination process for homeless or unaccompanied youth;
  • Remove the unnecessary and burdensome requirement that unaccompanied students must have their status re-determined every year unless conflicting information exists;
  • Explain that foster care support and services that help foster youth survive do not count as “income” for purposes of calculating financial aid; and
  • Provide homeless and foster youth in-state tuition rates to reduce barriers to college attendance due to lack of financial support.

Senate cosponsors of the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act include: Senators Tammy Baldwin (DWI), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Organizations supporting the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act include: Advocates for Children, Advocates for Youth, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Home Society of America, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Children’s Defense Fund, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, College Success Foundation, Council for Opportunity in Education, Covenant House International, Education Law Center, Foster Family-based Treatment Association. Futures Without Violence, Girls Inc., Healthy Teen Network, Homeless Children’s Education Fund, Juvenile Law Center, Kids Voice, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Disability Rights Network, National Foster Care Coalition, National Foster Parent Association, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Network for Youth, National Women’s Law Center, North American Council on Adoptable Children, The Mockingbird Society, Public Justice Center, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, Robert F. Kennedy Juvenile Justice Collaborative, SparkAction, Treehouse, The Wily Network, Voices for Adoption, Youth Law Center.

Read the text of the legislation here.

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