GAO Report Reveals Significant Obstacles for Homeless and Foster Care Youth Pursuing College Education

Homelessness and frequent housing instability creates barriers and challenges in preparing homeless and foster care youth for college. This month, in an effort to identify and address these challenges, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report aimed at addressing some of obstacles faced by homeless and foster care youth. Examining enrollment and college completion data from 2011, the independent non-partisan agency of Congress interviewed foster care and homeless youth, along with officials from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other external stakeholders. Their report concluded that for homeless and foster care youth:

  • BA Youth Graph (1)Burdensome program rules hinder their ability to access federal support;
  • Extensive documentation requests impede access to aid;
  • Annual re-verification of homelessness was a barrier for unaccompanied homeless youth;
  • Limited academic preparation, family support, and lack of awareness of resources made it harder for homeless and foster youth to pursue college;
  • Age eligibility rules hinder some foster youths’ access to Chafee Education and Training Vouchers; and while little is known of the college outcomes for homeless youth, data show that foster youth complete college to a lesser extent than other students.

To address these challenges and barriers, the GAO recommended that the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services consider proposing legislation that simplifies the requirements for federal programs and centralizes college information on their website for homeless and foster care youth. In response, while Health and Human Services agreed to the recommendations, the Department of Education neither agreed nor disagreed, but issued its own potential action steps.

To read the full report, visit the GAO website.