Kids in foster care face a number of obstacles and the longer they remain in the system, the more difficult their journey becomes. The circumstances that lead children into foster care can be traumatic and leave lasting impressions that cause challenges later in life. But many states are working to improve outcomes for foster care kids by developing scholarship programs to help them attend college for little to no cost.
Foster Care Statistics
While relatively few children overall remain in the foster care system, many bounce in and out over a period of years. Roughly 15% of children that enter foster care are long termers that stay in the system for three years or more. Ultimately, 51% of kids are reunited with family and exit the system and another 21% are adopted out of the system.
A recent study out of the School of Social Work at the University of Washington showed that less than 11% of children that have been in the foster care system will go on to college and Casey Family Programs research says that only 2.5% will graduate – drastically less than the population at large.
Foster Care and College Struggles
For those kids stuck in the system, they age out of care at 18 – while many are still in high school. And for those that want to try college, the lack of a support system that most college freshman have can make it difficult to stick with school. But not only are many states providing scholarships and grants to help former foster care kids, but the schools themselves are stepping up to nurture them.
The Federal government also helps children who were in foster care in their teen years through the Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act, which allows students adopted on or after their 13th birthday to not include their parents’ income on the FAFSA to increase financial aid opportunities. And the $48 million Chafee Grant finances vouchers of up to $5,000 per year for former foster care children administered by states.
State and College Programs
In addition to the Federal/state Chafee program, many states offer scholarship and support programs. Certain university system and colleges also offer independent programs that provide financial and emotional support and mentoring for former foster care kids. Some schools even offer year round access to dormitories for those students that have no homes to go to during school breaks. And certain states offer 100% tuition waivers for high schoolers that graduated while still in foster care.
Here is a list of some of the state programs that those formerly (or still) in foster care may be eligible for:
Arizona – ASU Advantage
Arkansas – Steinkamp Education Trust
California – Guardian Scholars
Connecticut – University of Connecticut
Delaware – Davis Memorial Scholarship
District of Columbia – Tuition Assistance Grant
Florida – Foster Care to Adulthood
Georgia – Education Supplement
Hawaii – Hawaii Community Foundation
Idaho – At Risk Scholarship
Illinois – DCFS Scholarship Program
Indiana – 21st Century Scholars
Kentucky – Waiver for Adopted and Foster Children
Maryland – Tuition Waiver for Foster Care Recipients
Massachusetts – Foster Child Tuition Waiver
Michigan – Seita Scholars Program
Minnesota – Foster Youth Tuition Waiver
Missouri – MVSNA Student Scholarship
Montana – Education and Training Voucher Program
Nebraska – Education and Training Vouchers
Nevada – Foster Youth Grants
New Hampshire – DCYF Tuition Waiver
New Jersey – Foster Care Scholars
New Mexico – Youth in Foster Care Scholarship
New York – Educational Incfostentive Program
North Carolina – Reach
Ohio – ACT Fee Waiver
Oklahoma – DHS Tuition Waiver
Oregon – Foster Youth Connection
Pennsylvania – PSRFA Scholarship
Rhode Island – Post-Secondary Tuition Assistance Program
South Carolina – SC Need-Based Grant
South Dakota – WIA Scholarship and Orphan Foundation Scholarship
Tennessee – Hope Foster Care Tuition Grant
Texas – College for All Texans
Virginia – Community College Tuition Grant Program
Washington – Passport to College Promise
West Virginia – Students in Foster Care Exemption
Wisconsin – DCF Scholarships
Wyoming – Hathaway Scholarship
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what may be available in your area. Be sure to check with your local university system, Department of Children and Family Services and with your case worker for assistance in finding all possible sources of financial aid. If you are coming out of foster care with little resources and no support network, borrowing to finance your education should be avoided if possible. Instead, consider working your way through college and other cost-saving alternatives so you can graduate debt-free.
For those already dealing with student loans, sign up for a free Tuition.io student loan management account where you can view and track all of your student loans in our easy to read dashboard. Also check out our blog for tips on doing college on the cheap and coping with loans after graduation.