Pa. wants students from foster system to apply for college tuition waiver

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It's college application time for high school seniors, and Pennsylvania's human services secretary is reaching out to those who have been in the foster care system with an opportunity to go to school as well.

DHS Secretary Teresa Miller says under a new law, the Fostering Independence through Education Act, signed in June by Gov. Wolf, Pennsylvania residents who were in foster care at age 16 or older, including those adopted from the foster system, can qualify to go to college for free.

"This tuition waiver applies to public and private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania as well as community colleges and most vocational technical schools," Miller said.

Miller says it's only for tuition, but that's a big hurdle for many coming through foster care.

"We know that only 7% to 13% of youth with experience in foster care enroll in higher education. We also know that of those who do enroll, only 3% to 10% will make it to graduation," she said.

Miller says removing the burden of tuition will go a long way in improving access and success.

"We want to make it so that students from the foster care system only need to focus on adjusting to college life and getting good grades," she said. "We want to give students the ability to achieve a better life."

She says the state is encouraging colleges to work with students to find aid to pay room and board.

"Application information for the waiver will be available in January of 2020 and the program will begin in the fall semester of 2020," she said.

Miller says the tuition waiver can be used for up to five years or until the student reaches the age of 26, and those years don't need to be consecutive.