Monday, December 13, 2010

College Success After Foster Care

Speaking as a former foster child myself, there are many myths, misconceptions and misinformation regarding former foster youth and our pursuit of college.

Myth #1: Former foster youth can afford any college we want.

FALSE. Enrolling in college and succeeding in college are two different things.

In order to actually graduate from college, we've got to think about the cost of college textbooks, transportation, and where we are going to live.

It's important for every emancipated foster care youth to know how to apply for ETV funds, and how to fill out the FAFSA as an independent student.

But the journey doesn't end there. It's only just beginning...

There is rent to pay and there are textbooks to purchase. There can be unexpected crises, like health problems, and delays in receiving ETV funds. If you decide to invest in a car, you'll have to worry about insurance, gas and, sooner or later, car repair.

Here are some things that worked for me when I was in college:
  • Applying for grants and scholarships, but trying to avoid loans
  • When I received my refund check, I immediately used the money to pay for books and, whenever possible, I paid my rent three months ahead of time
  • I didn't own a car during college and grad school, because it's tough to afford both a car and an apartment at the same time when you lack family support. Many of the young people I know have been forced to choose between one or the other.
  • Building a relationship with Financial Aid staff so that they knew me by name.
Additional Resources:
  • Reduced price textbooks available at
  • Contacting the county you "aged out" of to see if they offer any aftercare services
  • Emancipated foster care youth in Ohio are eligible for Medicaid until age 21 (but it's a battle to actually access it)

I think there's room to partner with the faith community on this issue:
  • UK Wesley Foundation: A Methodist dorm that waited until I was able to pay rent, rather than kicking me out when I had a rough semester and lots of medical issues (and yes, I paid all my rent as soon as I could)
  • FCAA Ohio chapter met with the Cincinnati faith community in March 2010, to ask if churches might be willing to invest in helping emancipated foster care youth in pursuit of college with the cost of textbooks (no progress in moving this forward yet...)

Here in Ohio, we have a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college, called Ohio Reach:

Inviting YOU to share YOUR insights about this issue....

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