OLR Research Report


OTHER STATES' POSTSECONDARY EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE FOR FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN

 

By: Robin K. Cohen, Principal Analyst


QUESTION
Which other states offer postsecondary educational financial aid to former foster children, including children adopted from foster care? This report summarizes a subset of this assistance, what is commonly referred to as “tuition waiver” programs.

SUMMARY

According to the National Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD), 21 states offer tuition waivers to former foster children, including those who are adopted before their 18th birthday. (NRCYD is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau that provides technical assistance and capacity building for states and tribes to provide high quality services to children and youth in the child welfare system.)

These programs typically waive tuition (and sometimes fees) at one of the state's public higher education institutions. It appears that only Connecticut allows the student to take the value of that assistance and use it at an out-of-state institution.

STATE POSTSECONDARY TUITION WAIVER PROGRAMS FOR FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN

The NRCYD reports that 21 states provide tuition waivers to former foster children who wish to attend an institution of higher education once they complete high school or its equivalent. The amount of assistance varies, ranging from a waiver of tuition at a state school, to the equivalent of tuition, fees, and room and board that can be used out-of-state (Connecticut's program). Typically, the amount of the waiver is based on any other financial aid for which the student qualifies. This necessitates completion of the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) and other financial aid forms. Most states limit the waivers by specifying a particular number to be offered each year or tying them to available funding. To continue to receive these waivers students must maintain good academic standing (typically a 2.0 GPA) and be working towards earning a degree or certificate.

Connecticut is unique among these states as its waiver program pays for room and board in addition to tuition. Likewise, the state requires students to agree to remain in state care through their 21st birthday in order to maximize federal child welfare funding.

Many students eligible for the waiver may also qualify for Education and Training Vouchers (ETV). This federally funded program, authorized by Congress in 2002, provides up to $5,000 toward the cost of attending a postsecondary program of education or training. To be eligible, a child must be in foster care on or after his or her 16th birthday. The amount of assistance is based on the student's unmet need after other financial aid is considered.

Table 1 describes the postsecondary tuition waivers in the states.

Table 1: Postsecondary Tuition Waivers for Former Foster Youth

State

Eligibility Requirements

Subsidy Amount

Duration of Subsidy

Misc.

Alaska

● Children must be in foster care on or after 16th birthday and no older than 21 when applying

Tuition

Four years

Max. of 12 waivers per year

Assumption that student also receives ETV and other federal financial aid

Accepted for full-time attendance at qualifying education or training program

Connecticut

● Children in foster care on 18th birthday

Amount equivalent to in-state tuition, room and board, and fees at Central Connecticut State University

Until age 23

Sign form indicating desire to continue to receive DCF services through 21st birthday

Connecticut

● Former foster children adopted after December 31, 2004

Amount equivalent to University of Connecticut tuition, room and board, and fees

Until age 23

$500 student contribution

Florida

● Children in foster care at 18

● Children in the custody of a relative at 18

● Children placed in guardianship by court

● Children adopted from the child welfare department after May 5, 1997

Tuition and fees, including lab fees

Until age 28

Valid at all state public universities, community colleges, and public vocational schools

Kansas

● Children in the custody of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services on their 18th birthday

● Children adopted from the department on or after their 16th birthday

● Children who left foster care for guardianship care on or after their 16th birthday

Tuition and fees

Semester during which child turns 23

Valid at all Kansas educational institutions, including vocational schools, vocational-technical schools, and community colleges

Kentucky

● Children's family receives state-funded adoption assistance

● Children in a foster home

● Children in an independent living program and the placement is funded by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services

● Children who were in Cabinet custody, were adopted, and are living out of state

● Children for whom the cabinet was the student's legal custodian on their 18th birthday

Tuition and mandatory fees for any undergraduate program of any state public postsecondary institution

Waiver is good for five years from when it is issued and students must apply for it within four years of high school graduation

All public postsecondary institutions in the state

Maine

● Children in Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) custody

● Children whose parent received adoption assistance

● Children under permanent guardianship through DHHS at the time of high school graduation or GED receipt

Tuition at one of the University of Maine's system colleges, Maine Maritime Academy, or the state's vocational technical colleges

Continues as long as student remains in good standing

Maximum of 30 freshmen per year

Must apply for financial aid

Not available to student enrolled full- time for more than five years

Maryland

● Children in foster care at the time of high school or GED completion

● Children formerly in foster care and adopted after their 13th birthday or adopted with a sibling who was adopted after his or her 13th birthday

Tuition and fees at a two- or four-year Maryland public higher education institution

Five years after initial enrollment

Must enroll by age 25

Massachusetts

● Children adopted from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) since 2000

● Children in foster care at age 18

● Children in guardianship though DCF

Tuition and fees at any public college or university

Until age 25

Fee waiver is subject to available funds

Minnesota

● Wards of the state (parental rights terminated)

Tuition

Until age 21

 

Missouri

● Children in foster care or other residential care on or after (1) the day they graduate from high school or receive their GED, (2) the day before their 18th birthday, or (3) the day of their 14th birthday if they were eligible for adoption

Tuition and fees at Missouri colleges and universities

Students must apply before their 21st birthday

18-25 students

Students must apply before their 21st birthday

New Hampshire

● Children in foster care when turning 18

● Children in state guardianship or custody at age 18

● Children adopted while in state guardianship or adopted from the care, custody, and control of the Department of Human Services following a surrender of parental rights

● Children living in out-of-home juvenile justice placement on their 17th birthday

Tuition and fees at New Hampshire public institutions

Until age 23

Maximum of 20 new and renewal waivers each year

New Jersey

● Children who have been homeless or in foster care for at least nine months at age 16

● Youth who have lived in DCF-funded transitional housing

Tuition at state public colleges and universities

Until age 23

Students qualifying for ETV must choose it or the waiver (ETV can be used outside the state)

North Carolina

● Children who are in foster care at age 18

Tuition

Until age 23

2012 study by legislative fiscal office found waiver program ineffective, structured to be a “last resort”

Oklahoma

● Children who, within the previous three years, have been in Department of Human Services custody for any nine of the 24 months after their 16th but before their 18th birthday

Tuition at any institution that is a member of the state system of higher education or postsecondary vocation-technical program (vo-tech)

Earlier of age 26 or receipt of baccalaure-ate degree or vo-tech certificate

 

Oregon

● Children who have spent at least a year in substitute care after age 16

Tuition and fees (including lab fees) at state's public universities and colleges

Must begin taking the waiver by age 25; after age 25, study must be continuous

Must complete a minimum of 30 volunteer hours each semester, preferably with foster youth

Rhode Island

● Children in Department of Children, Youth, and Families' legal custody on their 18th birthday

A portion of costs covered at any of state's public colleges and universities—supplement to any other assistance

Until age 23, if a full-time student

Technically not a waiver but rather a grant program (NRCYD included on its list)

South Carolina

● Children in the custody of the Department of Social Services or those who have aged out

Up to $2,500, plus an additional $2,000

Unknown

Youth must self-identify their foster care status and complete a foster care waiver form

Texas

● Children who were in foster care on their 18th birthday

● Children who were adopted on or after September 1, 2009

Tuition and fees at state supported higher education institutions

Must enroll by age 25

 

Utah

● Children who have been a ward of the state for at least 24 months

Tuition for up to nine semesters at any public institution

Up to age 26; must first apply by age 21

 

Virginia

● Children certified to be in foster care, in the custody of a social service agency, adopted when completing high school or equivalent, or in foster care at age 18

Tuition and fees at any Virginia community college

Unknown

Must be enrolled at least half time

West Virginia

● Children must be in foster care or other residential care for at least one year before the waiver is awarded

Tuition and fees at state higher education institutions

Unknown

Initial waiver must be granted within two years of high school or equivalent completion

SOURCES

Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, Postsecondary Education Resources for Youth in and Transitioning Out of the Child Welfare System, 2012

North American Council on Adoptable Children, How to Cover College Expenses for Your Adopted Child, website last visited on December 10, 2013

Tuition Waivers Policy, National Resource Center for Youth Development, website last visited 12/20/2013

Various state legislative websites

Tuition Assistance for Foster and Other Children, OLR Report 2012-R-0067, February 2, 2012

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