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New GAO Report Release Highlights Persistent Barriers to Higher Education Access and Completion for Homeless and Foster Youth

Report finds systemic barriers to financial aid inhibit homeless and foster youth from obtaining the resources needed to pursue a college education


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on actions needed to help homeless and foster care youth pursue and succeed in higher education. The report found that homeless students and foster students pursue a college degree at lower rates and face numerous obstacles to success in higher education. In particular, many foster students and students struggling with homelessness have difficultly navigating the college and federal student aid processes. Most notably, the report finds that limited professional assistance, burdensome documentation and verification processes, and rigid age requirements hinder their ability to obtain critical resources. These findings underscore the importance of removing barriers that make it difficult for homeless youth and youth in foster care to receive the supports they need to graduate from college prepared for the workforce.


Students from all walks of life should have the chance to pursue a college degree, especially because higher education can be a ticket to the middle class,” said Senator Patty Murray. Unfortunately, as this report makes clear, far too many young people who are homeless or in foster care in my home state of Washington and across the country face significant barriers to pursing a higher education. I will continue leading efforts in the Senate to break down those barriers and help these students get the supports they need to graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life.”


Senator Murray has introduced legislation to remove barriers and help ensure more students have strong and clear pathways into and through higher education. The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act requires colleges and universities to improve outreach, resources, and policies for homeless and foster youth, including by streamlining eligibility determinations for financial aid, providing housing options between terms, and designating a single point of contact responsible for providing supports for these students. The bill also requires the federal government to provide ways to help resolve questions about a student’s independence and ensure its programs identify, recruit, and prepare homeless and foster students for college. The bill also encourages states to grant in-state tuition rates for students who haven’t had stable residency.


To read the full GAO report click HERE.