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Foster youth in California can now attend college for free: 'This is a tremendous victory'

More than 90 percent of foster youth in the Golden State want to continue their education but only 4 percent could afford to make it possible... until now.

Foster youth in California can now attend college for free: 'This is a tremendous victory'
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Stanley Morales

A new law in California hopes to help over 60,000 foster youth by covering the entire cost of college at any UC, Cal State or California community college. This even includes tuition and housing, according to My Modern Met. More than 90 percent of foster youth in the Golden State want to continue their education but only 4 percent are able to reach a bachelor's degree by the age of 26 when compared to 50 percent of students who were not part of the foster system... until now.



 

“[This is] a potential game changer for tens of thousands of California's foster youth with dreams of going to college,” California Senator Angelique Ashby said. This legislation expands the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS) to “have 100 percent of their unmet needs covered, including for books, food, lodging, after another aid is applied.” Any student can be part of the program regardless of their high school performance.

“The state of California has done a good job historically of paying for tuition for foster youth who find their way to college,” Ashby added, “but it didn't cover everything, including housing, which for foster youth then you might as well cover nothing if you're not going to cover the housing.”



 

Senate Bill 307 sought to make debt-free college a reality for foster youth in California and to have 100 percent of their unmet needs covered, including books, food and lodging, after other aid is applied. "This is a tremendous victory for foster youth across California," said San Diegan and former foster youth, Shane Harris. Harris has been an avid supporter of the bill which he would have loved to have had available to him when he got out of the system in 2010.

"Who wouldn't want to go to college for free, especially when you're in the situations many of us have been in?" he told CBS 8. "When you lose your parents, you don't have the support system, you're trying to make it through all these different challenges, and then you go to pay for college?"



 

Foster advocates believe that is going to be a life-changing move for foster youth and is a step in the right direction. “We’re really taking another step to break down those economic inequities that our foster youth might have and certainly increase the social connections that come with going to postsecondary education,” shared Steven Jella who is the Chief Program Officer with San Diego Youth Services, according to FOX 5.

Senior Projects Manager with John Burton Advocates for Youth, Sarah Pauter—who grew up in foster care—knows the hardships first-hand and has welcomed the new initiative. “I didn’t have parents. I didn’t have anybody who can help me take on the debt, and at 23 years old I had no credit, and I was a student, so I didn’t have a robust employment history,” Pauter shared. Her organization fought for funding for financial aid for foster youth across all three public postsecondary systems in the state in the 2023/2024 budget.



 

A total of $25 million has been allocated annually for this program and the next step is to get the word out and let students know that they can have access to funding. “In the state of California, your dreams are possible, you can become anything you want to be, and now you can go to college for free,” Harris added.

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