Postsecondary attainment is increasingly necessary to move out of poverty and homelessness and live a healthy, secure life. However, homeless and foster youth face unique barriers to accessing and completing higher education, including lack of family and supportive adults, histories of neglect, abuse, trauma, mobility, and severe poverty.
Four complementary bills will help homeless and foster youth transition successfully to and through higher education, and receive the support they need to complete their degrees and achieve economic independence. These bills are summarized below.
Bill #1: The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY) was introduced on February 9, 2022 by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). In 2020, the bipartisan FAFSA Simplification Act enacted many critical improvements to the financial aid process for homeless and foster youth that were first suggested by previous versions of this legislation. HEASHFY of 2022 goes further to remove barriers in college for homeless and foster youth and ensure they have clear and reliable pathways into and through higher education.
This bipartisan legislation would:
- Require institutions of higher education to develop a plan to assist and give priority to homeless and foster youth for any on-campus housing during and between academic terms.
- Designate liaisons at each institution of higher education to assist homeless and foster youth in accessing student support services and community resources.
- Provide accessible information on college websites about the financial aid process and resources available to homeless and foster youth.
- Require colleges to include voluntary questions on admissions applications about students’ status as homeless and foster youth in order to facilitate support services and provide outcome data.
- Prioritize homeless and foster youth in Federal Work-Study positions.
- Create an ‘ombudsman’ the U.S. Department of Education to intervene in cases where a homeless or foster youth’s determination process is disputed by the institution.
- Provide homeless and foster youth in-state tuition rates to reduce barriers to college attendance due to lack of financial support, particularly when they haven’t had stable residency.
- Facilitate the recruitment, participation, and retention of homeless and foster youth in the TRIO and GEAR UP college access programs.
- Include homeless and foster youth in the data collected by college access programs.
- Require federal professional development and guidance to financial aid administrators and other personnel on best practices to support homeless and foster youth.
Bill #2: The Fostering Success in Higher Education was introduced by U.S. Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-7th/IL) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-8th/IL) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tina Smith (D-MN) in the U.S. Senate on February 9, 2022. This legislation is unchanged from the version introduced in the previous session of Congress.
The legislation would:
- Invest $150 million a year in States, tribes, and territories to establish or expand statewide initiatives to assist foster and homeless youth in enrolling in and graduating from institutions of higher education.
- Establish formula grants to States based on a state’s share of foster youth and homeless youth among all states, with a $500,000 minimum grant.
- Dedicate 70% of state grants to develop Institutions of Excellence skilled at serving foster and homeless youth.
- Direct 25% of State grants to establish intensive, statewide transition initiatives to increase college enrollment by foster and homeless youth.
Bill #3: The Helping Foster and Homeless Youth Achieve Act (S. 3350), introduced by U.S. Senators Jackie Rosen (D-NV) and Rob Portman (R-OH), is bipartisan legislation that increases access to higher education by waiving application fees to federally-funded institutions of higher education for youth experiencing homelessness and former foster youth.
Bill #4: The Fostering Postsecondary Success for Foster and Homeless Youth Act of 2021 (H.R. 2028) is introduced by U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Don Bacon (R-NE).
This bipartisan legislation that removes barriers to higher education will create:
- A recognition program through the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to identify and highlight colleges and universities with tailored campus-based supports for foster and homeless youth. By designating higher education institutions as “Foster and Homeless Youth Friendly” and profiling them on ED’s website, this program will recognize institutions for their commitment to students and help these students navigate the college-going process.
- A national Center for Fostering Postsecondary Success for Foster and Homeless Youth, to provide technical assistance to postsecondary institutions as they create and maintain campus-based supports and disseminate best practices across the country.