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COLLEGE ACCESS: Murray, Landrieu, Baldwin Bill Would Help Homeless and Foster Youth Get to College

Nov 21 2013

Legislation provides commonsense policies for homeless, foster youth, including in-state tuition, year-round housing options

More than 1.1 million homeless children and youth are enrolled in U.S. public schools

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, legislation that would remove unique, significant barriers to higher education for homeless and foster youth.  Among other things, the legislation would require colleges and universities to improve outreach, resources, and policies for homeless and at risk youth, including housing options between terms, in-state tuition, and staff designated for homeless and foster youth outreach.  Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that more than 1.1 million homeless children and youth are currently enrolled in U.S. public schools.

“A college degree is a critical stepping stone to a successful career, and every American deserves the same opportunity to go to college and chase their dreams, including young people who are homeless or in foster care,” said Senator Murray.  “The legislation I introduced isn’t complicated; it simply reduces some of the incredible barriers that homeless and foster care youth face to make a better life through higher education.”

“For years, I have fought to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education and that our most vulnerable youth are given every opportunity to succeed,” said Senator Landrieu.  “I'm excited to partner with Senator Murray and Senator Baldwin on this legislation that ensures an easier and more successful path for foster and homeless youth.”

“In Wisconsin, we know that higher education is the path to the middle class,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to join this effort to strengthen this path for our students who are most in need. We must make it a priority to open the doors of opportunity to every student so that they have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, get ahead and succeed.”

The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act would:

Remove barriers and make college more affordable for homeless and foster youth by:

  • Clarifying that youth under age 24 who are determined to be unaccompanied and homeless are considered independent students and removing the requirement that their unaccompanied status must to be re-determined every year;
  • Providing homeless and foster youth in-state tuition to reduce barriers to college attendance due to lack of financial support;
  • Clarifying that foster care support and services, such as the Chafee Education and Training Vouchers and extended foster care payments, are excludable income for purposes of calculating financial aid for foster youth.

Support college retention, success and completion of homeless and foster youth by having institutions of higher education:

  • Develop a plan to assist homeless and foster youth to access housing resources during and between academic terms;
  • Designate a single point of contact to assist homeless and foster youth to access and complete higher education;
  • Collaborate with child welfare agencies, homeless service providers, and school district homeless liaisons to identify, conduct outreach to, and recruit homeless and foster youth.

Request GAO to examine key educational metrics for homeless and foster youth, such as:

  • The percentage of homeless and foster youth attending and graduating from an institution of higher education, average length of time to complete a degree, as well as programmatic and tuition support;
  • Suggestions on how the Department of Education may improve the educational attainment rates of such youth.

This bill joins several other legislative efforts from Senator Murray that seek to improve the lives and educational outcomes of homeless children and families. This Congress, Senator Murray has also introduced S. 833, the Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act, which will improve outcomes for homeless children in elementary and secondary schools, and S.834, the Improving Access to Child Care for Homeless Families Act, which breaks down barriers to vital child care services for homeless families with young children.

Supporters of the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act include:

Alliance for Children and Families, Black Administrators in Child Welfare, Children’s Defense Fund, Child Welfare League of America, Covenant House International, Education Law Center, First Focus, The John Burton Foundation, Juvenile Law Center, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, National Center on Housing and Child Welfare, National Coalition for the Homeless, The National Crittenton Foundation, National Health Care for the Homeless Council National, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, National Network for Youth, School Social Worker Association of America, The Trevor Project