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Waiver programs provide college tuition for foster care youth and those experiencing homelessness

Advocates hope to expand program to other states
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Posted at 3:03 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 15:05:43-04

BALTIMORE — DaeJanae Day didn’t get the classic college experience.

“Spring Break, Thanksgiving break, summer break, winter break where I had to make that transition back to Prince George's and I didn't have anywhere to go when I came back,” said Day.

When school closed for breaks, she would make the trip to a youth homeless shelter near where she grew up.

“I had to worry about where I was going to lay my head, if Promise Place had that space for me when I gave them a call two weeks before my break,” she said.

One thing she didn’t have to worry about was her $7.000 yearly tuition.

It was covered by a waiver she applied for from the state of Maryland.

“I didn’t have to worry about if I had food in my place, I didn’t have to worry about if they cut my classes if my financial aid was acting up,” said Day.

Maryland isn’t the only state that has this program, 26 others have it as well. But advocates say it's not enough.

“This tuition waiver program in Maryland is incredible I want to see it replicated in other states,” said Gabriella Sevilla, an attorney at the National Homelessness Law Center.

“In 2015, my dad left to Ecuador. We were evicted. I was in college, I was in the dorms,” said Sevilla.

She says paying for the education of kids experiencing homelessness or in the foster care system will save them money in the long run.

“If we give youth experiencing homelessness a little support to go to college and get that education, it can quite literally save money on shelters on services on public benefit programing,” said Sevilla.

On average a chronically homeless person costs taxpayers more than $35,000 a year. Whereas, someone with a Bachelor's degree spends an average of $65,000 a year - including goods, services, and paying their taxes.

Sevilla says if it wasn’t for programs at Rutgers-Newark she wouldn’t have been able to stay in school.

“I got some extended stay at the dorms at Rutgers. Stayed until I could try and figure out things and it bought me enough time,” said Sevilla.

It bought her enough time that would eventually put her through Howard Law School in D.C. and now advocating for kids who are in the same position she and Day were in.

“People who have had to live their lives on the streets and train stations, they have a lot of heart. They’re brilliant. They’re survivors,” said Sevilla.

“Even with difficulties and even when stuff isn’t going our way, our struggle defines who we are,” said Day.