Pending proposal would waive tuition for current and former young adoptees in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – There’s a proposal pending on Capitol Hill that encourages young people in the state to say it could change their lives. House Bill 1313 passed the Mississippi House unanimously on Thursday.

“We all have different stories and we’ve overcome it and I believe with this bill it’s going to give them a chance,” Rep. Richard Bennett said when introducing the bill.

Tuition waivers for foster students are something the Child Protective Services Commissioner sees as a step to help extend support to young people who might otherwise age out of the system and being cut off from services and supports.

“I think the most amazing part is getting that message out to kids who feel like they don’t belong,” MDCPS Commissioner Andrea Sanders said. “The thing is, they belong in Mississippi, they’re our kids.”

Maranda Turner was detained until 2019. She is now one test away from getting her GED. And she honestly thought that would be the end of her formal schooling.

“Being a cosmetologist is more attainable than my current dream, which is being able to be a foster lawyer, but you have to have a degree in social work, and things like that that I never thought I could do because it’s is so expensive,” Maranda Turner explained. “And so, with the passage of this bill, it changed my whole outlook on things.”

And she’s excited about what it could mean not just for her future, but for the system as well.

“Just for more social workers to kind of come from the same background and really know, what kids would talk about, that would definitely be a lot of change, good change,” Turner added. “And so I think if more foster kids could be social workers, that would certainly change the system a lot more than it is now.”

The bill extends beyond tuition and housing, including vacation accommodation.

“The college dorms closed around December 3 and don’t reopen until January,” Commissioner Sanders noted. “A young man told me that he was so stressed during his exams, that he didn’t study for the exams, because he didn’t know where he could sleep when the doors closed. And so he’s you know, he sleeps in cars, he surfs on a couch. It makes children very vulnerable to adults picking on them, to trafficking, to those sorts of things. And, unfortunately, homelessness.

The proposal would create 150 scholarships in that first year, with as many scholarships added each year. The maximum number will be 900. The bill is now sent to the Senate for further consideration.

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