Massachusetts Announces Grants for Foster Children Attending College
Foster children attending college will be eligible for up to $6,000 a year in state grants to help pay for books, meals and housing under a program unveiled recently.
The $1.2 million grant program targets students who have left the foster care system at 18 without being adopted or returned home.
The Foster Child Grant Program, announced last month by Lt. Gov. Jane Swift, offers grants to current and former foster children to offset the costs of attending private or public colleges or universities.
To be eligible, a foster child must be in the care of the state at age 18 or at the time of college admission. The student must also have tried all other sources of financial aid and sign an agreement with the Department of Social Services outlining the terms of the grant.
The program is an extension of an educational initiative announced last year and aimed at adopted and foster children.
“Only 5 percent of foster kids go on to get college degrees. We can do better,” Swift said.
Swift says the administration is working to make sure foster children are able to take advantage of the college offer by helping them pass the MCAS exam — a requirement for graduation starting with this year’s 10th grade class.
Students who fail will be able to get tutoring. Students in danger of failing will also be given individual education plans to help them succeed.
In June, the Board of Higher Education approved tuition waivers to state colleges for all children, aged 24 or younger, who were adopted through DSS. The tuition waivers are also available to all foster children.
There are nearly 10,000 children in the care of the state, with 8,200 living in foster care and 1,500 living in residential settings. Each year about 1,000 children are adopted. Many more are returned to a parent or guardian.
About 1,000 children in foster care turn 18 each year without being adopted or reunited with their families. Of these, about 200 plan to attend college each year.
Funding for the new grant program was approved by the Legislature in a supplemental budget and signed by Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci last month.
Annual tuition at the state university is approximately $1,600. At state colleges, the cost is $1,090. With fees and room and board, the cost can climb to as much as $12,000 per year.
“Children in foster care, by definition, lack the support of families in helping pay for college,” says Jeffrey Locke, Department of Social Services Commissioner. “The state serves as a parent to these children and, like all responsible parents, we must do all we can to help our children fulfill their potential.”
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