Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act of 2017. Clark’s bill lifts barriers to college entrance often experienced by homeless and foster youth facing questions about their independent status and financial eligibility.
In U.S. public schools, more than 1.3 million students are homeless and nearly 428,000 are in foster care. These students often lack the support network they need to navigate a complicated higher education and financial aid system. Clark’s bill requires the U.S. Department of Education to help resolve questions about a student’s independence and ensure federal programs identify, recruit, and prepare homeless and foster youth for college.
The Higher Education Access and Success and Foster Youth Act also asks colleges and universities to streamline eligibility determinations for financial aid and encourages states to grant in-state tuition for homeless and foster students.
“Every day, our homeless and foster youth overcome challenges that remain largely invisible to their communities,” said Clark. “The sad, pervasive reality is that too many students don’t know where they will get their next meal or where they will sleep tonight, but they know that good grades and hard work are their best shot at a brighter future.
Their hard work to better their lives shouldn’t be deterred by policies and paperwork,” said Clark. “Our bill is a simple, common sense way Congress can help students who face unique and significant challenges chart their path to success.”
The bipartisan, bicameral bill is cosponsored by Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA; Ranking Member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce), Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA), Congressman Don Young (R-AK) in the U.S. House, and Senator (D-WA; Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in the U.S. Senate.
The Homeless and Foster Youth Act removes barriers and makes college more affordable for homeless and foster youth by:
Easing the verification and determination process for unaccompanied homeless youth or youth who are unaccompanied, self-supporting, and at risk of being homeless, and foster children and youth;
Removing the unnecessary and burdensome requirement that unaccompanied students must have their status re-determined every year unless conflicting information exists;
Retaining important documentation paperwork that often gets lost for homeless and foster youth, and can jeopardize access to financial aid and other critical supports;
Clarifying 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;
Explaining that foster care support and services that help foster youth survive do not count as “income” for purposes of calculating financial aid;
Providing homeless and foster youth in-state tuition rates to reduce barriers to college attendance due to lack of financial support.
This bill supports 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 in accessing campus housing resources during and between academic terms;
Communicate the resources and financial aid available to homeless and foster youth;
Designate a single point of contact to assist homeless and foster youth in accessing institutional and community services and to support their ability to complete higher education;
Include homeless and foster youth in the data collected by college access programs and identify ways they can further support student retention and success;
Collaborate with child welfare agencies, homeless service providers, and school district homeless liaisons to identify, conduct outreach to, and recruit homeless and foster youth to college.