PHILADELPHIA - Youth in Pennsylvania’s foster care system will be able to attend college tuition free starting the fall 2020 semester.
The Fostering Independence Through Education Act was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on June 28.
The new state law waives tuition for youth who were in foster care at age 16 or older, including those who have “aged out” of the system or who have been adopted.
However, students aspiring towards higher education would be required to exhaust all means of financial aid before applying for the waiver.
The waiver is designed to cover costs after grants and scholarships have been pursued.
Beyond supporting the financial needs of foster youth interested in pursuing higher education, the law will help create resources and support for college and universities to help guide them.
"Starting with the fall 2020 semester, this new law will make that path a little easier," Gov. Wolf wrote in a Facebook post on Aug. 26.
As a result, all Pennsylvania colleges and universities, including public, private, community colleges and state-related schools, will begin accepting the waivers for the fall 2020 semester.
The cost of college application fees will also be covered.
In-state tuition in Pennsylvania averaged about $22,299 for the 2017-2018 school year making higher education in the state the fifth most expensive nationally.
The waiver will be valid for up to five years until a young adult reaches the age of 26.
State statistics detailing foster care find that from 2013-2017, “the proportion of children entering foster care as first time entries continues to increase.”
“Aging out of the system usually comes with a plague of consequences, including a higher rate of incarceration, homelessness, and unemployment,” states Family Care for Children & Youth, an adoption and foster care agency in Pennsylvania.