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Washington Lawmakers Propose College Pilot Program To Accommodate Homeless Students

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Going to college can be hard, but it’s especially difficult for students experiencing homelessness. Washington lawmakers are exploring ways state colleges could help these students.

The measure being considered in the Washington Senate would create a pilot program at six community colleges and universities to provide various accommodations for homeless students.

Under the proposed Passport to Careers Program, colleges may offer laundry facilities, showers and meals to homeless students. Colleges would also provide short-term housing on college property or help them pay for housing.

Peter Guzman works with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. He said apprenticeship programs offered by colleges in Washington could help vulnerable students earn higher wages and access higher education.

“Our system is also focused on closing equity gaps and this program will continue to assist in supporting a group of people who experience undue barriers in accessing education,” Guzman said. “Foster and homeless youth experience disproportionate amount of homelessness, poverty and struggle to complete post-secondary education.”

Lawmakers say colleges have the potential to help students like Charles Adkins who has struggled with homelessness since he was in high school. Adkins is now a junior at The Evergreen State College and the director of legislative affairs for the Geoduck Student Union.

He said that although there are some scholarships available for homeless students, they should also get help to meet basic needs.

“For example something as simple as clothing is not included in the cost of attendance for college because it’s just presumed that students in general have a family that is able to purchase them clothing,” Adkins said.

Ten years ago, Washington began to offer similar college scholarships for students who have been in foster care after their 16th birthday. In recent years, lawmakers have been working to expand apprenticeship opportunities for all students.