If you are a student who has spent time in the foster care system, is currently in the foster care system, or has aged out of foster care, you might be eligible for a number of state and federal scholarships and grants to help pay for college. Recently, foundations and government agencies have begun to recognize the financial hardship that often accompanies foster care, and have made millions of dollars available to youth who may not have thought that college was a financial possibility.
One of the biggest changes that has occurred in recent years for foster youth seeking financial aid for college is the passing of a federal law that allows students who have been adopted after their 16th birthday to continue to qualify for federal financial aid, which previously was not the case.
Further general eligibility requirements for students looking for scholarships for college is that the student has spent at least one consecutive year in foster care, either public or private, and that you did so only in the United States.
This aid comes in the form of special incentive scholarships for foster youth. Through a program call the Education and Training Voucher program (also known as Chaffee dollars), students who are between the ages of 18 and 20, and have spent time in the foster care system and aged-out of were adopted can receive a voucher of up to $5,000 per year. This award is granted on the state level, so that requirements, award and eligibility varies from state to state. Most states require that students are currently enrolled in college, university or technical school.
Some states offer more programs to students if foster care, beyond the Education and Training Voucher program. This might be a tuition waver, like Massachusetts’ Foster Children Tuition Program, or a more traditional scholarship program, like the Washington Governor Scholarship.
The largest provider of private scholarships and grants to foster children is the Orphan Foundation of America. The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) provides scholarship to students under the age of 25 who have spent time in foster care (for one consecutive year at the time that they turn 18), have been adopted after their 16th birthday, or have had both parents die before the age of 18. While the size and number of awards fluctuates from year to year, most awards are reserved for undergraduate study, and awards are both need and merit based.
It is also important to remember that there are plenty of scholarships available that might not specifically be for foster youth, but could still apply to your personal situation or field of study. Be sure to check out our Scholarships for Overcoming Adversity and other scholarship profiles to be sure that you make the most of your scholarship search.