Community College Watch: Removing Barriers for Homeless Students

Melissa Maichle California, Community Colleges, FL, General Issues in Financial Aid, MA, NY, PA

A new amendment to the Higher Education Authorization Act was introduced in September with bi-partisan support from multiple Senators to help combat homelessness for college students. The amendment would help provide housing options for students in between terms, and improve outreach to homeless students.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio helped create The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act. Mr. Portman states, “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. This common-sense legislation will remove unnecessary barriers and make college more affordable for these youth.”

A study surveyed tens of thousands of community college students across the country and found that about 14 percent of them were homeless and about half were housing insecure, which meant that they had missed rent payments or slept at a friend’s house. By easing the verification and determination process for those who are unaccompanied by an adult, the Act removes barriers and makes going to college more practical for homeless and foster children. It clarifies that youth under the age of twenty-four who are determined to be unaccompanied or homeless are considered to be independent students, allowing them to receive the full financial aid package that they need.