Ellison and Stabenow Seek Educational Assistance for Homeless Students
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced legislation this week to create the opportunity for low-income students to stay in their low-income housing and attend school full time. Existing law forces such students to attend school part-time, or lose their low income housing.
"A choice between homelessness and higher education is one that no one should have to make," Ellison stated. "And we certainly shouldn't be asking our children to decide between a home and a better future." Ellison continued. "These at-risk kids want to go to school. We should be encouraging their desire to do so by opening the door to education, opportunity, and a better way of life," Ellison concluded.
The Ellison/Stabenow legislation amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow formerly homeless students to qualify for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit while attending school full-time. This legislation has the potential to positively affect tens of thousands of youth nationwide.
"Some of our most vulnerable students are facing a Catch-22: attend school full-time and risk homelessness, or keep their homes and seriously jeopardize their dreams of an education," said Stabenow. "This legislation will protect our children from a false choice - one they shouldn't have to be making in the first place."
In 1986, Congress created the Student Rule to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to ensure that the resources in this program were reaching those who truly need them. This rule was originally written so that students who appear low-income on paper, but in fact have access to substantial familial resources, would not benefit from monies intended for truly low-income individuals.
While the spirit of this rule is sound, an unintended consequence emerged. Students whose only option is to live in low-income housing are forced to attend school part-time, rather than full-time, in order to continue to qualify for their housing.
Going to school part-time can mean the loss of critical financial aid and scholarship money for students. Additionally, attending school on a part-time basis could put low-income and at-risk students in precarious situations that may threaten their future.
"I commend Representative Ellison not only for his efforts to change this tax credit legislation, but also for inspiring young people to continue their education," said Chip Hallbach, Executive Director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.