Higher Education for Homeless and Foster Youth

Table of Content

Malcolm X stated that “education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” (Black Past, 2017). Over the years, college/university attendance has been on the rise. However, low-income youth, especially those experiencing homeless or within the foster care system, “are less likely to attend college” and if they do enroll, less likely to graduate (Dworsky, 2017; Kirk, Lewis, NIlsen, & Colvin, 2013). Homeless and foster care youth experience “unique barriers to accessing and completing higher education. Lack of family supports, coupled with histories of neglect, abuse, trauma, mobility, and deep poverty, created roadblocks to their path to and through post-secondary education” (School House Connection, 2017; Kirk & Day, 2011). The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY), in conjunction with the Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017 (FSHEA), aims for youth experiencing homelessness and within the foster care system to be able to “enroll, afford, and graduate” from post-secondary educational institutes with a degree/certificate (Education Law Center, 2017).

Both the HEASHFY and FSHEA were introduced on September 12, 2017. The purpose of the HEASHFY is “to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve the financial aid process for homeless children and youths and foster care children and youth” (Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, H.R. 3740, 115th Cong., 2017). If enacted, the bill will “remove barriers and make college more affordable for homeless and foster youth,” and would further “support college retention, success, and completion of homeless and foster youth” (School House Connection, 2017). HEASHFY plans to address social values such as education and housing by easing the verification and determination process for an independent status when filling for financial aid, provide them with in-state tuition rates, develop plans to assist homeless and foster care youth with housing during and in between semesters, and etcetera (School House Connection, 2017; Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, H.R. 3740, 115th Cong., 2017; Juvenile Law Center).

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The original Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) was created in order to address “the need for more higher education opportunities for lower and middle income families, program assistance for small and less developed colleges, additional and improved library resources at higher education institutions, and utilization of college and university resources to help deal with national problems like poverty and community development” (Pell Institute, 2003). The bill sought to address social values such as fundamental rights and equality by, strengthening educational resources and providing financial assistance at colleges and universities to increase affordability to students (Pell Institute, 2003). Since its enactment, the bill had been reauthorized every four to six years, adding new programs, improving existing ones, and increasing funding up until 2008 (Pell Institute, 2003).

In response to the implementation of the HEA, the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) were introduced. The TRIO programs are “Federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds” (U.S. Department of Education , 2018). TRIO consists of eight programs, which “serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs” (U.S. Department of Education , 2018).

The first of the TRIO programs, Upward Bound, began in 1965 with the emergence of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). This provided fundamental support to those preparing to enter college. In 1965, the Talent Search program was created along with the Higher Education Act. Talent Search sought out and assisted “individuals from disadvantaged background who have the potential to success in higher education” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). The term TRIO was then coined due to the implementation of the third education opportunity program implemented underneath HEA, the Student Support Services program. This program awarded funds to “institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for academic development, assist students with basic college requirements, and to motivate students toward the successful completion of their postsecondary education” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).

With each reauthorization, the TRIO programs were expanded and improved upon to provide more services and more individuals with the needed assistance (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). In 1972 the fourth program, the Educational Opportunity Centers, was added to the TRIO. This program provides “counseling and information on college admissions to qualified adults who want to enter or continue a program postsecondary education” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Four years later, Training Program for Federal TRIO programs was added, providing incentive to institutions and organizations whom provide “support training to enhance the skills and expertise of project directors and staff employed in the Federal TRIO programs” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).

10 years later the sixth program was added to the TRIO, the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which awards “institutions of higher education to prepare eligible participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). In 1990, an extension to the Upward Bound program was added, the Upward Bound Math/Science Program, which was established “to address the need for specific instruction in the fields of math and science” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). Lastly, the Veterans Upward Bound was created to “motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for acceptance and success in a program of postsecondary education” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). All the eight programs work collectively with one another, addressing the needs of various populations to pursue higher education, neither one conflicting with the other.

Many youth within the foster care system “transition out of the foster care system with few, if any, financial resources; limited education, training, and employment options; no safe place to live; and with little or no support from family, friends, and the community” (Kirk & Day, 2011; Dworsky, 2017). Consequently, foster care youth are “particularly vulnerable to negative social outcomes such as jail, homelessness, unemployment, teen pregnancy and parenthood” (Kirk & Day, 2011). To further assist homeless and foster care youth, the FSHEA was introduced in conjunction with the HEASHFYA. The FSHEA was introduced with the purpose to “amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide formula grants to States to improve higher education opportunities for foster youth and homeless youth, and for other purposes” (Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017, H.R. 3742, 115th Cong., 2017). The proposed bill also, “requires states to award subgrants to higher education institutions to develop robust campus-based support services and financial assistance for homeless and foster youth through the development of Institutions of Excellence” (School House Connection, 2017). Another relevant policy is the Aim Higher Act, introduced on July 26, 2018. The proposed bill aims to “amend and strengthen the Higher Education Act of 1965 so that every student has a path to a quality, debt-free degree or credential that leads to a rewarding career,” making community college free(Aim Higher Act, H.R. 6543, 115th Cong., 2018). Cost for the proposed bills has yet been established, and due the multitude of services and difference in the costs of each program, it was difficult establishing the average cost due to variation in individual needs.

All three of the proposed bills have sponsorship from both major political parties. Representative Katherine Clark (Democrat) of Massachusetts is the sponsor of the HEASHFYA and is accompanied by eight cosponsors. Those are Representatives Don Young (Republican) of Alaska, Robert C. Scott (Democrat) of Virginia, Susan A. Davis (Democrat) of California, Karen Bass (Democrat) of California, Jared Polis (Democrat) of Colorado, Susan Brooks (Republican) of Indiana, Tom Marino (Republican) of Pennsylvania, and James R. Langevin (Democrat) of Rhode Island (Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, H.R. 3740, 115th Cong., 2017).

The FSHEA is sponsored by representative Danny K. Davis (Democrat) of Illinois accompanied by 29 cosponsors. Representative cosponsoring the proposed bill are: Krishnamoorthi, Raja [D-IL-8], Scott, Robert C. ‘Bobby’ [D-VA-3], Davis, Susan A. [D-CA-53], Carson, Andre [D-IN-7], Langevin, James R. [D-RI-2], Lawrence, Brenda L. [D-MI-14], Moore, Gwen [D-WI-4], Nadler, Jerrold [D-NY-10], Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large], Payne, Donald M., Jr. [D-NJ-10], McGovern, James P. [D-MA-2], DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11], Chu, Judy [D-CA-27], Takano, Mark [D-CA-41], Lawson, Al, Jr. [D-FL-5], McNerney, Jerry [D-CA-9], Espaillat, Adriano [D-NY-13] ,Kildee, Daniel T. [D-MI-5], Wilson, Frederica S. [D-FL-24], Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20], Lee, Sheila [D-TX-18], Bass, Karen [D-CA-37], Lofgren, Zoe [D-CA-19], Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2], Schiff, Adam B. [D-CA-28], Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9], Green, Gene [D-TX-29], Maloney, Sean Patrick [D-NY-18], Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9] (Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017, H.R. 3742, 115th Cong., 2017). The Aim Higher Act, sponsored by representative Robert C. Scott, has managed to gain the most sponsorship with 81 cosponsors, all within the democratic party (Aim Higher Act, H.R. 6543, 115th Cong., 2018).

Advocacy for the proposed bills may consist of group advocacy such as rallying and events promoting awareness of the need for accessibility to higher learning. Lobbying is another form of advocacy for the proposed bills. Citizens have the power to influence officials about issues felt are prevalent within their communities. Fundraising can also be applied to advocacy for the proposed bills. Furthermore, providing information to education institutions, community centers, libraries, etcetera will allow for more individuals to be informed about the proposed bills, their purpose, how they will benefit disadvantaged individuals and ways to be involved.

The purpose of each of the proposed bills is to address the need for higher educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth. Each bill serves to amend the HEA of 1965, as well as serves its own purpose in connection with providing opportunities for homeless and foster care youth, as well as low-income families.

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Higher Education for Homeless and Foster Youth. (2022, Feb 01). Retrieved from


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