What types of struggles do foster youth face while planning for college and after enrollment?
Once a foster youth has decided to attend, and after they have enrolled, there are many obstacles that they have to overcome. Foster youth, unfortunately, don’t have the additional support from family members that a child who is not in foster care have access to.
The reality is that once a child reaches the age of majority, whether it is considered 18 or 21 in most states, the foster family no longer receives the financial assistance to support the child and do not want anything more to do with the child. Those times when the foster youth needs to make a decision, there is no one to turn to.
When their roommate receives a visit from a family member or friend, the foster youth does not have that visit. During holidays and vacations, most college students return home to spend time with their families where foster youth struggle to find somewhere to go. The dorms close during the holidays and vacations, but there are some colleges who have become more aware and sensitive to this fact and have decided to keep the dorms open.
Foster youth don’t have the luxury of being sent a care package or even extra money to spend when the meal plan has run out, or they become hungry during the night. For one of my clients, it was a struggle to find additional funds to pay for the books needed for classes. The financial aid received was just enough to cover the cost of tuition and room and board.
Luckily, we were able to determine that the insurance coverage the University required as part of the tuition was able to be waived due to the child having insurance coverage through the state. The fee was significant enough that it was able to cover the cost of his books.
What financial resources are available for foster youth who are interested in attending college? Where should they look for help?
The first step in paying for college is applying for federal financial aid, and this can be done by completing and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA. As a youth in care or a former youth in care, you are more than likely to be eligible for Independent Student Status. What this means is that your custodial parent’s financial information is NOT considered, and therefore NOT required on the FASFA. Make sure you check the “Ward/dependency of the state or courts” box on your FASFA form so you can receive all the aid you’re eligible for.
In New York State, The Fostering College Youth Success Initiative (FYCSI) is a new program specifically for foster youth who are either already in college or about to enter college. This program is designed to provide foster youth with the necessary supports and financial assistance to help them achieve academic success and meet college expenses.
Any student preparing to enter college, and who is currently in foster care or was in foster care after their 13th birthday is eligible and should immediately contact the College Opportunity program offices at campuses they have applied to, or which they are about to enroll to request more information.
FYCSI provides support that includes but is not limited to the cost of tuition and fees, books, transportation, housing and other essential supports on campus. FYCSI works through New York’s Opportunity Programs such as Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at State University of New York (SUNY) colleges, College Discovery (CD) & Search for Education Elevation Knowledge (SEEK) at City University of New York (CUNY) colleges, Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP) at private colleges and universities.
Not all colleges and universities operate opportunity programs, eligible students are encouraged to contact the University they want to attend, and inquire if the University has an Opportunity Program AND is participating in FYCSI.
New York State also offers an Educational Training Voucher (ETV) that provides up to $5,000 a year for college and vocational training. Youth eligible for this program are foster care youth and former foster care youth who have not yet attained the age of 21. A youth that is participating in the program once they reach the age of 21 remains eligible until the youth reaches age 23 provided that the youth is still enrolled in and attending a postsecondary educational or vocational training program.
The ETV has to be applied for each year and is available online through Foster Care to Success.