More than 800 young people in foster care in Pennsylvania could be eligible for college tuition waivers at in-state schools when they go into effect next year.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A new law gives young people in Pennsylvania’s foster-care system a real chance to get a college education.
Kids in foster care face obstacles to college that other students may not, especially as they age out of the system and begin living independently. But now, under the Fostering Independence Through Education Act, those with a high school diploma or GED can get a waiver on tuition and fees at any public or private college or university in the state.
According to Maura McInerney, legal director at the Education Law Center, Pennsylvania now ranks second in the nation for college debt.
“This new law will ensure that children who are in foster care can afford to attend college, many of whom are on their own and therefore, don’t have the support and the safety net that other students would have while in college,” says McInerney.
The waivers are available to students who were in foster care at age 16 or older and can be used for five years, up to age 26. The program will go into effect in the 2020 fall semester.
McInerny points out the law not only gives students waivers on tuition and fees, it provides them with help to get what they need to stay in school.
“Every student will have a point of contact while at college,” says McInerney. “And that person will ensure that they can navigate the financial aid process, as well as find critical supports on campus.”
To remain eligible, students will need to maintain satisfactory academic progress in their college classes.
The bill had contained a provision requiring colleges to pay for housing, too. But McInerny says that was dropped in negotiations to ensure passage of the bill.
“However, what we do see are a number of colleges and universities stepping up to the plate and saying that they will actually provide room and board to these students,” says McInerney.
McInerny credits the work of many organizations – in particular, Juvenile Law Center – as key partners in the passage of this legislation.