From Foster Care to College – State Programs Help At-Risk Youth
January 7, 2014

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.

Foster care college statistics

Children from foster care are far less likely to graduate from college.
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Here is a list of some of the state programs that those formerly (or still) in foster care may be eligible for:

Alabama – Foster & Adoptive Parent Association Scholarship

Alaska – University of Alaska Tuition Waiver Program

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

Iowa – All Iowa Opportunity Foster Care Grant

Kansas – Foster Child Education Assistance Program

Kentucky – Waiver for Adopted and Foster Children

Maine – Post-Secondary Education Tuition Waiver

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

Utah – Walker Transition to Adult Living Scholarship

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 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.