(May 17) – Gov. John Hickenlooper joined Rep. Brittany Pettersen in Lakewood today to sign her bill to help put a higher education within reach for homeless Colorado youth who face extraordinary challenges. HB16-1100 allows “unaccompanied homeless youth” to be defined as residents for tuition purposes at state-supported institutions of higher education.
“Representative Esgar and I are overwhelmed with gratitude to be here today to finally close a gap in state law that adversely impacts some of our most at-risk Colorado kids,” said Rep. Pettersen, D-Lakewood, who shares sponsorship of the bill with Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “These are Colorado kids who went to Colorado schools, and this bill helps level the playing field to allow them an opportunity to pursue their goals, just like their peers.”
Reps. Pettersen and Esgar told the crowd of supporters the story of a young woman who testified in support of the bill because of her traumatic history. The young woman grew up with her severely abusive father and eventually decided to escape her dangerous situation. While she was homeless and staying at a shelter, she earned her GED and dreamed of going to college. But when she began filling out the paperwork for admissions, she realized she had to provide her parent’s information in order to qualify for in-state tuition. She was determined to go to college, so she went back to her father’s house to have him sign the documents she needed. Once again, it ended with police intervention and another traumatic experience for this young woman.
“This bill would have provided a pathway for her to prove residency on her own, without having to go back to an abusive situation,” said Rep. Pettersen.
Generally, unaccompanied homeless youth leave home due to severe family dysfunction, including circumstances that put their safety at risk, or they are forced to leave home by their parents.
The bill was signed at the Action Center in Lakewood.