State Representative Krista Griffith has introduced a bill, House Bill 123, that will help children who have spent years in the Foster Care system to the point that they are aging out of the system without being adopted with a waiver of state tuition and fees at Delaware’s public universities and colleges.
The legislation would require the University of Delaware, Delaware State University and Delaware Tech Community College to waive all tuition and fees, including room and board, for any young person who ages out of the foster care system at age 18 or later, or who has spent at least one year in foster care as a teenager. Youth enrolled as full-time students would also have access to year-round campus housing, eliminating a significant barrier. Youth would be required to apply for all available financial aid before having the remaining tuition and fees waived and would remain eligible for the waiver until age 26.
Currently, youth in foster care in Delaware have access to the federal Chafee Educational and Training Voucher program and a small state-funded scholarship program, which help these students defray some of the costs of higher education. But, Delaware is one of only 15 states that offer no additional assistance to foster youth pursuing postsecondary education.
Approximately 15-20 incoming freshmen would likely be eligible for tuition waivers under HB 123 each year, according to the Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families
|HOUSE BILL 123 SPONSORS||YES VOTES||NO VOTES|
|Griffith, Longhurst, Lambert, Lynn, Mitchell, Morrison, Wilson-Anton|
|Lockman, Poore, Brown, Hansen, S.McBride, Pinkney, Sokola|
|CURRENT STATUS — House Education 6/8/21|
“We know that young people who have been through the foster care system as teens and have aged out experience worse outcomes overall than their peers in terms of educational attainment, full-time employment, stable housing and financial independence,” said Rep. Griffith. “We can do more to make sure our students in foster care thrive as adults by removing the financial barrier to higher education. This will encourage youth in foster care to go out and earn a college degree, giving them tools they need to identify and obtain a path forward to achieving their dreams.”
“Teens and young adults in foster care rely on the system for guidance and planning for the future, when their peers typically receive this support from their families,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “The tuition waiver program is about keeping our promise to these young people and giving them every opportunity to live productive and fulfilling lives after foster care.”
“Children accepted into college after spending a significant time in Delaware’s foster care system are already defying the odds,” said Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the lead Senate sponsor of HB 123. “We should be rewarding that hard work by removing the barriers that are preventing some of our most vulnerable young people from achieving their goals and realizing their potential. That includes extending a clear path to a debt-free education.”
“Students in our foster care system rarely have the means or the emotional support to attend college, no matter how good their grades are or how hard they have worked,” said Sen. Nicole Poore, a co-prime sponsor of HB 123. “Delaware can do better for our vulnerable young people by offering them the opportunity to attain a college education that will help them secure a good-paying job and a bright future for years to come.”