News: State Policy & Advocacy

States Considering Bills to Promote College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessnes

Thursday, March 7, 2019  
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By guest blogger Patricia Julianelle, Director of Program Advancement and Legal Affairs for SchoolHouse Connection

The issue of homelessness among college students is garnering increased attention. In 2018, a large national study of community colleges and four-year universities found that 12 percent of community college students and 9 percent of university students experience homelessness each year. In particular, students who are parents are more likely to experience food and housing insecurity than students who do not have children.

Postsecondary education is the key to ending these students’ homelessness. The majority of well-paying jobs created since 2010 require some education beyond high school. For young people to afford stable housing and move out of poverty long term, they need higher education. Yet youth experiencing homelessness face barriers in transitioning from secondary to postsecondary education as well as barriers to accessing financial aid and making it to graduation.

Many postsecondary institutions have adopted policies and practices to support students experiencing homelessness, including those who are parents. The first step is outreach to identify students experiencing homelessness. For example, the California Community College and California State University systems use their applications – Common App, CCCApply, and CalState Apply, respectively – to allow prospective students to self-disclose homelessness. Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, specifically reached out to students who reported fainting and having low blood sugar levels and learned that many were homeless.

Other colleges partner with community agencies to provide housing for students. For example, DePaul University’s partnership with the Dax Program in Chicago matches students with volunteer host homes to provide short-term housing so students can stay on track to graduate. Dorm Room Dreamz in Louisiana created College Housing Plans to place students in housing environments that support higher education. Specialized College Housing Plans bring together colleges, students, and community housing agencies to provide students who have housing hardships with stable, appropriate housing so they can remain enrolled in college.

Many campuses offer supports to student parents experiencing homelessness, in particular. For example, Wilson College in Pennsylvania has a Single Parent Scholar Program that provides not only housing to single parents, but also ongoing service coordination and supports related to emotional readiness, time management, financial workshops, and other life skills. They also cover the cost of child care.

More strategies to assist students with financial aid and create campus-based support programs are available in SchoolHouse Connection’s Tips for Helping Homeless Youth Succeed in College.

In addition to policies and practices, legislation can institutionalize supports for students experiencing homelessness. While the U.S. Congress is likely to consider higher education legislation over the next year, many state legislators are debating bills right now. SchoolHouse Connection is working on legislation in four states to promote college access and success for students experiencing homelessness. That legislation includes:

Indiana’s HB 1152, which would establish the student hunger and homelessness study committee to study the prevalence of homelessness, housing insecurity, and food insecurity among students at Indiana colleges and universities and provide suggestions for eliminating those issues.

Maine’s LD 866, HP 640, which would:

  • Require institutions of higher education to designate a liaison for students experiencing homeless.
  • Require institutions of higher education to prioritize students experiencing homelessness for access to existing on-campus housing, develop a plan to provide students experiencing homelessness with housing during school breaks, and allow students experiencing homelessness who are enrolled part time to access on-campus housing during their first year of school.
  • Expand the tuition waiver for state postsecondary educational institutions to include students experiencing homelessness.

Tennessee’s HB 1000 and its companion bill SB 763, which would require postsecondary institutions to:

  • Designate a homeless student liaison, who will assist students experiencing homelessness in applying for and receiving financial aid and available services.
  • Give students experiencing homelessness priority access to on-campus housing, including housing that remains open the most days of the year.

Texas’s HB 809, which would:
  • Require existing higher education foster liaisons to support students experiencing homelessness who were not in foster care.
  • Provide liaisons with basic professional development.
  • Require institutions of higher education to prioritize students experiencing homelessness for access to existing on-campus housing and to assist them in locating housing during academic breaks.

As these bills progress through their state legislatures, be on the lookout for the Higher Education Access and Support for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (HEASHFY) to be introduced in the U.S. Congress this month.

You can promote college access and success for students experiencing homelessness in your community and state. Share the replicable strategies in SchoolHouse Connection’s Tips for Helping Homeless Youth Succeed in College with local colleges and universities. If you live in Indiana, Maine, Tennessee or Texas, tell your state legislators to support the bills outlined above. And when the U.S. Congress considers HEASHFY, let your senators and representative know you support the bill.

For more information on promoting college access and success for students experiencing homelessness, please contact Patricia Julianelle.

(Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash)