Texas House Considers Free College For Students Experiencing Homelessness

Apr 14, 2019 by

An estimated 10 percent of college students don’t have permanent housing. One measure would exempt those students from paying tuition.

The student union at Texas Tech University.
The student union at Texas Tech University. Wikimedia/Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture/Sunny Sone

Dewey Marshall has more than $60,000 in student loan debt, and he maxed out on federal aid. To supplement the grants and loans he’s received, he’s worked more part-time jobs over the last seven years than he can remember — delivering produce, as a barista and construction worker, in campus work-study positions. He juggled three jobs at one point and has worked up to 50 hours a week, all while enrolled at Ranger College in North Texas and then at Texas Woman’s University, where he is now in his final semester.

The aid and income he received wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Marshall, now 25, lived out of his car for three months in 2017 and sometimes smoked cigarettes instead of eating because he couldn’t afford meals. During his seven-year college career, he’s been in and out of homelessness, and some semesters chose not to enroll in classes so he could work full time.

Last week, he testified at the Capitol in favor of House Bill 730, which would exempt students without fixed housing from paying college tuition. “I want to let you know how easy it is to fall back into homelessness whenever you don’t have a college degree,” Marshall told members of the House Committee on Higher Education. “For students experiencing homelessness, it seems like a degree is at the very, very end of a really, really long tunnel with several barriers that [don’t] seem necessary.”

The proposal, by state Representative Ana Hernández, D-Houston, is one of at least two dozen bills filed this session that aim to benefit people experiencing homelessness. HB 730 is also one of at least two House bills — the other by fellow Houston Democrat Shawn Thierry — that focus on college students. A 2018 national study by Temple University found that 9 percent of students at four-year universities and 12 percent of students at two-year colleges were homeless. Black, Native American and LGBTQ students were at the greatest risk of experiencing homelessness, according to the study. More than a third of students said they’re housing insecure, meaning they struggle to pay rent or utilities or need to move frequently. The rates are even higher for students in two-year colleges.

Source: Texas House Considers Free College For Students Experiencing Homelessness

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