Eager youth seek ways to finance their college education. (Courtesy of socialwork.nyu.edu)

Several Democratic senators are pushing legislation to provide support to foster and homeless youth who often struggle through college.

Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and Reps. Danny K. Davis and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois introduced the Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017 on Tuesday, Sept. 12, along with Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Susan Davis of California. The bill aims to provide robust support to foster and homeless youth in order to help them succeed in college.

The bill is part of the Democratic “Aim Higher” campaign that aims to make higher education a reality for all students.

“Far too often, foster and homeless youth in urban areas, rural communities, and in Indian Country face major barriers when it comes to attending college,” said Franken, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “I believe we should be taking action to support these young men and women as they pursue an education, which is exactly what our new bill would do.

“This measure would improve access, retention, and graduation rates for homeless and foster youth — but most importantly, it would provide a platform for many young Minnesotans to reach their full potential,” Franken said. “I’m proud to have helped introduce this bill.”

The elected officials agree that although a college degree remains paramount to securing a job with a living wage and good benefits, foster and homeless youth are continuously left behind.

Fewer than 20 percent of foster youth graduate high school, and fewer than 10 percent of those who attempt college will obtain a postsecondary credential by the age of 25, the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“Frederick Douglass held that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” Davis said. “The Fostering Success in Higher Education Act helps ensure that foster and homeless youth have the best chance in school, work, and life so that they can be the leaders they want to be.

“Senator Franken and I successfully championed improvements in K-12 education for foster youth, and I am pleased to partner with him and Congressman Krishnamoorthi to help foster and homeless youth turn their dreams of being college graduates into reality,” Davis said.

The Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017 would improve college access, retention and completion rates for foster and homeless youth by substantially improving state capacity to support these students as they transition to and attend college.

The bill would also invest $150 million each year in states, tribes and territories to establish or expand statewide initiatives to assist foster and homeless youth in enrolling in and graduating from higher education.

Specifically, the bill dedicates 70 percent of state grants to develop “Institutions of Excellence” committed to serving foster and homeless youth via substantial financial assistance and robust support services.

“There is no question that education can be the great equalizer in our country, providing a bridge to opportunity for millions,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Despite the potential of education for social uplift, foster and homeless youth face additional obstacles in completing their educations and building a middle-class life.”

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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