February 5, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Christine Griffin
ANNAPOLIS, MD. — After a unanimous vote of support by the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, State Sen. Mary Washington’s bill, SB155, faces a floor vote this afternoon. The legislation expands and strengthens the Tuition Exemption for Foster Care Recipients and Homeless Youth. Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith (District 23-A) and Sen. Washington, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness, cross-filed the legislation.
“As someone who finds great hope in our young people, I am passionate about this bill and continuing to close a gap that vastly impedes talented youth from attaining their education goals,” said Sen. Washington. “And as the only Baltimore City Senator on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, I am immensely grateful to my colleagues for their enthusiastic support."
Sen. Washington first introduced legislation to create the tuition waiver in 2014, setting Maryland apart as one of the first states to offer free tuition for students who achieve college readiness despite the immense challenges of homelessness.
“Education is the key to breaking generational poverty. For each year of subsidized education, there are quantifiable improvements in employment and earnings opportunities, as well as better health and reduced risks of incarceration,” said Del. Valentino-Smith. “I am proud to have worked with Sen. Washington on this legislation, and I can think of no population more deserving of this tuition exemption.”
SB155 enhances implementation of the tuition waiver, bringing Maryland in line with best practices seen in other states, better supporting homeless and foster youth, and broadening eligibility beyond only unaccompanied homeless youth.
Youth leaders with experience of homelessness are speaking out, calling for passage of the legislation. Among them is DaeJanae Day, Co-Chair of the Prince George’s County Youth Action Board, who graduated from college with support from the tuition waiver for homeless youth and wants other youth to have the same opportunity. “My story has a bittersweet ending because I made it through trials and tribulations to get my degree, but my peers were not able to due to the challenges of getting the waiver, not knowing about the waiver, or the mental strain of it all,” says Day.
Among other expansions, SB 155 also requires public institutions of higher education to provide a liaison who can help students with a history of homelessness or foster care navigate higher ed financing, prioritize them for on-campus housing, and more.
“Just imagine the resilience and grit it takes to make it to college without stable housing or family support,” says Ingrid Lofgren of Homeless Persons Representation Project. “SB 155 actually represents a very modest financial investment, particularly if you consider the life-changing impact access to education can have in a young person’s life and all of the ways society will benefit from their talents and contributions.”
The bill will face a vote on the Senate floor this afternoon; Del. Valentino-Smith’s bill in the House has yet to be voted out of committee.
“The pandemic has only put in sharp relief how many barriers are in place for some of our most vulnerable Marylanders, especially our young people,” said Sen. Washington.“As public servants, it is our responsibility to help break those barriers, and this legislation will continue to lead us in the right direction.”