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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 26, 2017 10:39 AM
From: Representative David S. Hickernell
To: All House members
Subject: Proposed Legislation: Fostering Independence Through Education Act (Former HB 453 – 2015-2016 Legislative Session)
I am writing to invite you to join with me in cosponsoring a bill that I will be reintroducing in the near future that enacts the Fostering Independence Through Education Act. This bill will help assist children in foster care with the challenges of accessing higher educational opportunities.

In brief, my legislation:
  • Creates a tuition and fee waiver program for youth who are in foster care, who were adopted from the foster care system, or who have “aged out” of foster care, to be made available by State-supported postsecondary educational institutions, including State-owned universities, State-related universities, community colleges, and other State-aided postsecondary educational institutions.
  • Sets forth eligibility criteria for participation in the program, including the maintenance of satisfactory progress in postsecondary educational work.
  • Requires a coordinated effort by State agencies and the governing bodies of State-supported postsecondary educational institutions, to ensure that eligible students access existing available State and Federal grants.
  • Requires all State-supported postsecondary educational institutions to establish an employee to serve as a single point of contact for eligible students, to provide them with information concerning this program and other assistance that may be available to them.
  • Implements an outreach program through county agencies, to encourage prospective eligible foster care youth to participate in the program.
  • Requires the governing bodies of all State-supported postsecondary educational institutions to evaluate retention rates of students who participate in the program and make recommendations on how to improve the program to maximize its effectiveness.
I am introducing this legislation because in our Commonwealth, more than 22,000 youth are in foster care and each year more than 1,000 of these children “age out” of the system. Sadly, only 50% of foster youth graduate from high school and only 20% go on to college.

Without additional supports, it is clear that these children face significant challenges to ensure their future independence from government assistance.

Emancipated foster youth, who do not have parents to rely on for support and guidance, already suffer unique disadvantages compared with other students. One of the other critical hurdles for this student population is finding the financial resources to fund their education. While the General Assembly cannot replace parents, it can certainly help eliminate or greatly reduce the financial barriers to higher education for these students.

Please join me in my efforts to assist foster care children in promoting their independence through educational opportunities by cosponsoring this bill.

Previous cosponsors include: Hickernell, Cohen, Mentzer, Murt, Toohil and Zimmerman.

Introduced as HB1745