Roughly half of foster youth graduate high school or receive a high school equivalency diploma by age 19, and less than four percent of foster children earn a bachelor's degree. Getting into college and paying for it is already difficult, so how do foster youth in higher education overcome seemingly impossible obstacles?
One way they can find support is through programs such as Illinois State University's academy program, which helps students prepare for and graduate from college. The academy offers Saturday classes, year-round mentoring and a four-week summer campus immersion program for high school-aged foster youth, and can be found at several colleges, including Loyola University and the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA).
Some public universities and community colleges are even required by law to give priority in enrollment to former foster youth. Also, given that many foster youth face frequent residential instability, campus housing has become more available; public colleges are actually encouraged to keep dorms open for foster youth during holidays.
Many students coming from foster homes must work full-time while in college to pay their college tuition. Although there are programs that offer monthly stipends, "many former foster youth work full time to attend college part time," and put their financial eligibility at risk. Luckily, there are quite a few free college scholarships for foster youth pursuing higher education. These scholarships can often fund anything from tuition to textbooks, housing, school supplies, dorm supplies, and tutoring. In many cases, scholarships for foster youth require students to have been in the foster care system for a specific amount of time or be of a certain age. For a list of all scholarships for foster youth in our directory - ranging from $500 to full-tuition, click here.