OLR Research Report

December 15, 2004




By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked how other states help former foster children pay for post-secondary education. You were particularly interested in whether any have created or capitalized special funds for this purpose.

A 2002 National Conference of State Legislatures report, which we have updated, indicates that 33 states provide some kind of assistance to help former foster children attend post-secondary schools: 22 have scholarship or grant programs, while 11 waive tuitions at public colleges or vocational programs. Some states do both. Table 1, below, describes the variety of state supports for former foster children's higher education. (They are former foster care children because states' legal responsibility for them typically ends when they turn age 18; most states continue to assist such youth on a voluntary basis.)

Some states use federal funds to help pay for former foster children's higher education expenses. The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (PL 106-169) created the Chafee Independent Living Program, which, among other activities, authorizes funds for college, vocational training, and other education-related support for youth aging out of foster care. States can provide up to $5,000 per year per youth for education and training vouchers.

Connecticut pays for educational expenses—including tuition, fees, room and board, books, tutoring, and health care—for former foster youth up to their 23rd birthday. The state pays the difference, primarily with state funds, between any scholarships or other grants the youth obtains and the costs of attending the institution. Connecticut uses most of its Chafee funds for independent living programs other than post-secondary education, according to Debra Korta, the Department of Children and Families' legislative liaison.

Table 1: State Assistance for Foster Children's Higher Education




Scholarships and Grants


The state funds $1,000 per year scholarships to youth who continue to participate in the independent living program and maintain good academic achievement.



The Student Aid Commission provides a grant up to $5,000 (paid for with Chafee money) to youths who are or were in foster care between ages 16 and 18. Students can also use the grant for rent, childcare, and transportation. The commission, within available appropriations, also provides a $2,800 supplemental grant to youths who were in permanent, long-term foster care within the 60-days before their 18th birthday and have received state Cal Grant financial aid.

Education Code 69541;



The Department of Children and Families pays for educational expenses—including tuition, fees, room and board, books, tutoring and health care—for foster youth up to their 23rd birthday. The amount it pays is net of other grants and scholarships. It mainly uses state funds for this purpose.



The Ivy Davis Scholarship, operated by the state's Foster Care Review Board, offers up to $5,000 per year in scholarships to former foster youth.



The state supplements other financial assistance, such as scholarships and loans, to pay for educational expenses associated with obtaining a post-secondary degree for youth participating in the state's independent living program.



The state pays the higher education board expenses for former foster care youth age 21 or younger who are enrolled full-time (or part-time for one year) at a college or university.

346-16; 346-17.4


Independent living funds may be used on a case-by-case basis to assist with educational expenses.



The Department of Family Services may select 48 children who have graduated high school and either are under the department's care, were under its care before adoption, or are in subsidized guardianship, to receive four-year scholarships and fee waivers at any university or college. Selection is based on scholastic record, aptitude, and general interest in higher education. Other youth in these categories receive tuition and fee waivers at state colleges and universities.

20 ILCS 505/8





Scholarships and Grants


The Iowa Foster Care Grant pays between $2,800 and $7,000 per year to former foster youth who attend a public or private college. The amount depends on whether the student attends a community college, 4-year state college, or private college. The Iowa Student Aid Commission created the program using interest earnings from its student aid reserve accounts. The state also uses Chafee funds to provide vouchers for college or vocational school.



The state covers education costs for former foster youth after their Pell grant money has been spent.



State funds provide three forms of support:

1. A grant of up to $6,000 per year is available to youth who turn age 18 in Department of Social Services custody, regardless of where they attend a post-secondary school. The grant may be used for tuition or other costs related to education.

2. Scholarships ranging from $250 to $4000 are available for higher educational and vocational programs to any youth under age 25 who was in DSS custody for at least one year. These are funded from an “Expendable Trust DCG Wards-Payments Trust Fund” that was established decades ago with, and which continues to be augmented by, excess funds received on account of, and unclaimed by, children in foster care.

3. Tuition is waived for eligible youth attending in-state colleges.

MA Stat. Ann,

18B, 18



The state makes up the difference between a former foster youth's financial aid package and the cost of tuition and fees up to $3,500 per year.



The Otto Huth Scholarship Trust Fund offers scholarships up to $10,000 to former foster youth based on high school GPA showing continued improvement, school involvement, stable employment history, community involvement, required essays, and letters of recommendation. Scholarships can be used for higher education and vocational training and can pay for room and board. A private trust administers the fund.


New Jersey

Small scholarships can be arranged on a case-by case basis.


North Carolina

Independent living funds may be used to supplement secondary education costs up to $500 per year.



Former foster youth who were in out-of-home placement for more than 12 months between ages 16 and 21 can receive scholarships to any college or university in the state if they apply within three years of leaving care, graduating from high school, or receiving a GED, whichever is earliest. The scholarship is limited to the state university system's annual tuition rate. It is funded with Chafee money.

ORS 348.270





Scholarships and Grants

Rhode Island

The Department of Children, Youth and Families recommends full-time tuition grants at two- and four- year state institutions for Rhode Island residents who have been in the foster care for more than 24 months, have graduated from high school or completed a GED within the past year, and are not yet age 21. Decisions are made by a committee composed of various state agencies and colleges. The law calls for a $200,000 annual appreciation for the grants.

42-72.8-1, et seq.

South Dakota

The state makes up to $1,500 per year available to former foster youth to pursue post-secondary education.



The state uses Chafee funds to help cover the difference between expenses and financial aid.



Virginia residents who were in foster care, in the custody of DSS, or in special needs adoption status when they received their high school diploma or GED are eligible for grants to pay for tuition and related fees at Virginia community colleges.



The Governor's Scholarship program was established in 2001 to help youth in foster, group, or kinship care attending college or university in Washington. Scholarship amounts are determined after considering all other federal, state, college and private financial aid the student receives. Recipients receive a combination of scholarship, grant, loan, and work-study employment ranging between $1000 and $5000 per year; the average annual award is approximately $4000. Scholarships are funded solely by an annual Golf Cup hosted by the governor. All money raised on that day funds one cohort of Governor's Scholars. The private, nonprofit Washington Education Foundation manages the program.



The Division of Family Services awards scholarships up to $5,000 for youth in foster homes, group homes, residential care centers, or court ordered kinship care for at least six months after the age of 15 or who are adopted after age 15. Funding comes from the state's Chafee money.


Tuition Waivers


The president of the state university can authorize five tuition waivers annually for youth aging out of foster care. Additional food and housing assistance for them are funded with Chafee money.



Community colleges offer three free credit hours to former foster youth.



Youth in foster care, independent living, or adopted from state care after May 5, 1997 are exempt from (1) paying student fees at state universities; (2) registration, matriculation, and laboratory fees for workforce development programs; and (3) paying fees for college credit instruction for all undergraduate degrees.

240.235(5); 239.117(4);





Tuition Waivers


Tuition and fees are waived at public post-secondary institutions for up to five years for Kentucky residents over age 18 who are in the custody of the Cabinet for Families and Children or the Department of Juvenile Justice, were in their custody of these entities before adoption, or were in the custody of these entities

on their 18th birthdays.

KRS 194B.050 (1), 164:2847


Maine residents who were in foster care when they graduated high school or completed a GED may attend a public post-secondary institution free of tuition charges.

20-A MRSA Chap. 429-A


Maryland residents who lived in foster care when they turned age 18 or were adopted after they turned age 14 are exempt from paying tuition at public institutions of higher education if they are candidates for an associate's or bachelor's degree before their 21st birthday.

Education Article, 15-106.1


The university president can waive tuition for youth under age 21 who have been in state foster care. After age 21, a youth may ask to continue the waiver until completion of the program. Waivers are contingent upon employment (if able) and satisfactory progress.

MN Stat. 136F.70, subd.1


Oklahoma residents who spent more than nine months between ages 16 and 18 in foster care are eligible for tuition waivers at state higher education and vocational institutions until they complete their program or turn age 26, whichever occurs first. Chafee funds subsidize books, fees and dorm expenses.

Title 70, 3230


Texas residents who were in foster care, other residential care, or wards of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services at various specified times (14th birthday, 18th birthday, when they graduated or received GED, etc.) are exempt from tuition at state colleges and universities.

Texas Education Code 54.211


Wards and former wards of the state between the ages of 17 and 26 who have been in foster care for more than 24 total months are eligible for a tuition waiver at a state institution of higher learning (including technical, business, and trade schools). The Division of Child and Family Services reimburses the institution for the waiver cost.

53B-8d-101 et seq.

West Virginia

West Virginia residents who have spent one year in foster or other residential care and are in state custody when they graduate high school or complete their GED are eligible for tuition and fee waivers for up to four years of undergraduate courses at state institutions of higher education.


Source: NCSL, 2002.