|I will soon be reintroducing legislation to create the Fostering Independence Through Education Act. This bill will help assist children in foster care with the challenges of accessing higher educational opportunities and into family-sustaining careers. This bill passed the House unanimously last session.
This bill has broad support from the higher education community including: the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of PA (AICUP), the PA Commission for Community Colleges, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Pittsburgh University, and Temple University.
In brief, this legislation:
I am introducing this legislation because emancipated foster youth, who do not have parents to rely on for support and guidance, already suffer unique disadvantages compared with other students. Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. As a society, we have removed them from their families and adjudicated them through the county court systems so now the government overseas their well-being. This makes them a unique high- risk population especially when older children and youth come into the system. These outcomes can be positively influenced by the type of placement, the stability of the placement and access to services and educational opportunities. This legislation would impact all of those outcomes with more stability, opportunities, and most of all, more willing resources as you remove the education barrier. While the General Assembly cannot replace parents, it can certainly help eliminate or greatly reduce the financial barriers to higher education for these students.
- Creates a tuition and mandatory 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 PA independent colleges & universities and State-supported institutions of higher education, 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 a 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.
Please join me in this effort to assist foster care children in promoting their independence through educational opportunities by co-sponsoring this legislation.
Previous Cosponsors: HICKERNELL, BOBACK, CHARLTON, CUTLER, FEE, HEFFLEY, PHILLIPS-HILL, MENTZER, MILLARD, MURT, RAPP, ROEBUCK, SAYLOR, SCHWEYER, WARD, WATSON, ZIMMERMAN, TOOHIL, J. HARRIS, MADDEN, TAI and NELSON