California Foster Youth Can Now Attend In-State College For Free

A new legislation called SB 307, which will allow foster youth in the state to attend college for free, was signed into the California state budget on July 10, 2023

The legislation, an expansion of the Fostering Futures’ Middle-Class Scholarship program, guarantees foster youth access to grants that will pay for food, books, and campus housing.

As reported by KTLA, “Officials say the program serves to both increase the likelihood that foster youth can reach their educational goals and also better prepare them to enter the next stage of their lives, whether that involves pursuing an advanced degree or entering directly into their chosen career path, by providing the opportunity to begin their next chapter debt-free from higher education.” 

While most foster youth want to attend college — 93% in California expressed that desire — a meager 4% will attend and graduate with a degree due to the general cost of living, which is more difficult for them to afford.

The colleges included in the new legislation are the University of California, California State University, and California community colleges. The in-state tuition for that set of schools is around $15,000, while out-of-state students pay close to $45,000

According to the Children’s Law Center of California (CLC), more than 60,000 children are in foster care in California at any given time. Research shows that due to the difficulties and uncertainties of placements within the care system, it’s harder for them to consistently attend school and maintain an effective educational track as they approach college age. 

For example, while the average California high school graduation rate is 83%; high school students in foster care graduate on time just over 50% of the time.

This is due to the distinctive challenges they face in the system. The CLC stated, “Youth in foster care are more likely to be chronically absent (miss 10% or more days of school) than other underserved youth due to home placement changes, school transfers, court hearings, and parental visitation.” 

The new legislation is heartening for students in foster care who seek not only a college education but also the stability and opportunities it can provide as they approach young adulthood.