Bipartisan Bill Aims to Provide Support for Homeless College Students

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced legislation that aims to remove barriers to access to higher education for homeless students and those in foster care.

The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington; Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio; Rep. Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts; and Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska. It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the Fafsa, provide housing options for students in between terms, and improve outreach to homeless students.

“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,” Ms. Murray said in a news release announcing the legislation.

Both Republicans and Democrats have said that reauthorizing the Higher Education Act is a top priority this Congress. But leaders of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee have turned the bulk of their attention to health care, making a reauthorization seem less likely. However, the lawmakers remain hopeful that this “common sense” legislation could move independent of those efforts.

“Kids in foster care face an uphill battle when they pursue higher education. It is in all of our interests to help these kids who have aged out of the foster-care system or have experienced homelessness, and ensure that services for them are a priority in existing federal programs,” Mr. Portman said. “This common-sense legislation will remove unnecessary barriers and make college more affordable for these youth.”

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