Policy Initiatives

Foster College Success Campaign

The Problem: Every year in New York State, approximately 20,000 children and youth are living in the foster care system. These youth are the responsibility of the state because it was determined that they could no longer live safely in their homes.  Throughout the year, 1,827 youth excited the system with nearly 75 percent discharged to independent living; and 2,243 young people over 18 remained in care, two-thirds of whom had been in care for over three years. 

We estimate that just 18 to 24 percent of college-age foster youth are enrolled in college, as compared to 60 percent of the general population.

For youth that age out of the foster care system without the basic tools they need in order to transition to adulthood successfully, the outcomes are overwhelmingly poor. One in five experience homeless after the age 18; only 50% are employed by the age 24; and 71% will be pregnant or parenting by 21.  All too often, many are at risk of moving back into government systems—shelters, juvenile centers, and adult prisons—or are reliant upon government safety net benefits to survive.

Youth in care need solutions to the overwhelming gaps in financial assistance that they confront as well as the absence of social, emotional and academic supports that are fundamental to college success.

The Solutions

If New York State is committed to preparing youth for adulthood, it is imperative that youth in foster care are provided with the additional support and resources needed to achieve a college degree – a critical next step to independence. The Fostering Youth Success Alliance is advocating for a coherent, cohesive college success program for youth in foster care that has the following core components:

  • Statewide website—young people in foster care need access to consistent and reliable information before and during the college application process and throughout their time in college.            
  • Summer transition program—the transition to college is challenging for all young people, but it is more so for youth in foster care. A summer transition program is essential to helping youth navigate on-campus systems, build the necessary habits to compete in college-level work, and begin building relationships with peers and supports on campus.
  • On-campus social, emotional, and academic supports:
    • Advisement and coaching—each student will have a designated advisor, who has experience with foster care issues and how to navigate college;
    • Tutoring and academic assistance—advisors will direct students to existing campus resources, and additional help when necessary; and
    • Transition and aging-out support from advisors, particularly in the areas of housing and employment.
  • Stable year—round housing until the student graduates.
  • Financial aid assistance
    • A simple, straightforward application and financial aid process, requiring minimal paperwork for foster youth.
    • Comprehensive financial aid covering all tuition and living expenses, filling in any gaps left by existing public resources (such as TAP, Pell, and ETV).
    • Emergency funds for incidentals and crisis situations.

College Support Programs Across the County

Across the county, states are taking proactive steps so that foster youth have the resources and opportunity to succeed in college. Currently, 22 states currently ensures that foster youth will not have to pay tuition thanks to specific waiver policies, and several others are allocating public/private funds to help foster youth pay for college.

Alaska Maine North Carolina
Connecticut Maryland Oklahoma
District of Columbia Massachusetts Oregon
Delaware Michigan Rhode Island
Florida Minnesota South Carolina
Hawaii Missouri Texas
Illinois New Hampshire Utah
Kansas New Jersey West Virginia
Kentucky New Mexico