Bill to help homeless, foster youth afford college

Camille Botello, Staff Writer

Homeless high school students and those in the foster care system will be given support for their entry to college, thanks to new legislation.

Certain members of Congress– Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Rob Portman, Rep. Katherine Clark, and Rep. Don Young– proposed the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act to other members of Congress on Sept. 12. Many Democrats and Republicans alike are in favor of the bill, which is a more lenient with high school graduation requirements for students in the foster care system or students who are homeless.

Last April, Oregon had already started started enacting House Bill 3267. It was passed unanimously on the House floor and provides support to homeless and foster care system students.

Rep. Janelle S. Bynum is one of the co-chief sponsors of the bill. “Homeless and foster youth experience a myriad of barriers to school success, including high rates of ‘mobility’ or moving schools,” she said in April.

“The skyrocketing costs of college impact all students, but for homeless and foster students, the challenges they face far too often put higher education out of reach,” said Sen. Murray during the federal proposal on Tuesday.

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, about 1.3 million students in the United States are homeless.

An article from NPR about how to better help homeless youth in schools points out that a lot of homeless students aren’t living in shelters, but “may be doubled up with relatives or moving frequently from place to place.” This is something that is often overlooked–students all over the country are homeless and many are perhaps never identified as such.

There are 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States according to the Department of Education. Like homeless children, foster kids also frequently move around. As a result, many of their academic credits don’t transfer from school to school, slowing down and even preventing them from graduating.

The Department of Education also stresses that “national research shows that children in foster care are at high-risk of dropping out of school and are unlikely to attend or graduate from college.” The members of Congress who drafted the bill are trying to lessen these statistics.

The act will give less fortunate students better access to continuing education and possibly even lower the cost of attendance for other students.

Caitlyn Cheney, an ex-homeless youth who was interviewed by reporters from NPR, said she wished teachers would take the time to ask students what’s behind their falling asleep in class or missing assignments.

“I wish that more teachers had more compassion for some of the situations that students might be going through.”