Chapter 6Campus Policy Recommendations
It is often challenging for colleges and universities to identify students with a foster care background on their campuses. Without proper identification, many students will miss opportunities to access the available resources and supports set aside to help foster youth and alumni thrive in school.
Schools typically rely on FAFSA information (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to identify eligible students. FAFSA includes questions regarding time spent in foster care to determine if students are financially independent from their parents. Unfortunately, the FAFSA language is often confusing for youth applicants. Because the admissions process represents the earliest point of engagement between schools and students, it is recommended that all public and private colleges and universities in New York include a standardized foster youth identification question on their admission applications. This policy has been effective in California and Washington State2, where public universities experienced a significant increase in foster youth identification after changing their admission applications.
Pre-admission identification also gives schools the opportunity to conduct earlier and more targeted outreach to prospective students from foster care. Once youth self-identify, schools will be better equipped to help students navigate the college admission and enrollment processes, and efficiently connect them to campus opportunity programs, for which all foster youth automatically meet the financial qualifications.
Below are two examples of foster youth identification questions that are recommended for inclusion on New York State college admissions applications. This language is intended to minimize confusion for students and is similar to what is on the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) application and the State University of New York’s Central Admissions Application.
- Are you currently in foster care, an orphan, OR were you in foster care or orphaned at any time after age 13?
If YES, are you interested in receiving academic support or financial aid designated for foster youth and orphans?
- I am a current or former foster youth OR an orphan and would be interested in receiving financial aid and/or other benefits and services available for foster youth.