Portman, Rosen Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Foster and Homeless Youth Pursue Higher Education

December 9, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) announced the introduction of the Helping Foster and Homeless Youth Achieve Act. The bipartisan legislation would improve access to educational opportunities by requiring that higher education institutions receiving federal assistance waive application fees for foster and homeless youth.

“Kids facing homelessness, or in the foster care system, face an uphill battle when trying to pursue higher education. It is in all of our interests to ensure services for these children are a priority in existing federal programs,” said Senator Portman. “This common-sense, bipartisan legislation will remove unnecessary barriers and make college more affordable for these youths. It will support college retention, and greater success in higher education, allowing them to graduate, pursue their dreams, and achieve their God-given potential.”

“Foster and homeless youth in Nevada and across the nation face significant financial barriers to pursuing higher education,” said Senator Rosen. “This bipartisan bill will help Nevada’s homeless and foster youth more easily take this early step toward additional education and training by eliminating application fees and reducing the strain they face. This is an important step to make higher education more financially accessible.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, around 70 percent of foster youth express the desire to pursue a higher education. Unfortunately, economic strain and burdensome financial aid program rules can make it more difficult for unaccompanied homeless youth to apply for college and federal financial assistance. Foster youth were also disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – 31 percent reported a loss of access to academic or post-secondary educational support.

The Helping Foster and Homeless Youth Achieve Act is supported by the following organizations: Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Family Centered Treatment Foundation, Family Focused Treatment Association, First Focus Campaign for Children, Foster Care Alumni of America, iFoster, John Burton Advocates for Youth, Kidsave, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Network for Youth, Partners for Our Children (University of Washington School of Social Work), S.D. Martin Consulting, Schoolhouse Connection, and Youth Villages.

“Youth experiencing homelessness and youth in foster care face many barriers to higher education, including deep poverty, histories of trauma, and lack of family support. Yet postsecondary education is increasingly necessary to avoid poverty and homelessness as adults,” said Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of Schoolhouse Connection.By waiving college application fees, the Helping Foster and Homeless Youth Achieve Act helps level the playing field and open the door to opportunity. We strongly support this legislation, and urge Congress to pass it quickly.”

“Youth who have experienced foster care deserve to have every door open to them as they begin their college journey,” said Allison Green, Legal Director of the National Association of Counsel for Children. “The Helping Foster and Homeless Youth Achieve Act is a commonsense way to remove barriers and ensure higher education institutions make their processes and programs accessible for all.”

“We are pleased to endorse the Helping Foster and Homeless Youth Achieve Act. This legislation takes an important step in helping young students navigate the multiple challenges of homelessness, foster care and financial barriers to higher education,” said Christine James-Brown, President & CEO of the Child Welfare League of America. “CWLA appreciates Senator Rosen's attention to the needs of these young people, and we look forward to working with her on its passage.”

“College opens doors and opportunities,” said Amy C. Harfeld, National Policy Directory for Children’s Advocacy Institute. “Let’s open the first one for homeless and foster youth by waiving burdensome application fees to send these promising students on their way.”

“Homeless and foster youth face enough challenges in their lives, trying to pay application fees for college shouldn't be one of them,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director, National Network for Youth. “NN4Y applauds the introduction of this legislation and urges for its swift passage so homeless and foster youth are able to enroll in college, a critical step to achieving upward economic mobility."

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