Forster youth are among America’s most disadvantaged in terms of opportunities for high education. They face unique barriers to higher educational opportunities.
Foster youth have been subjected to the traumatic experience of the neglect or abuse that brought them to the attention of the authorities and their removal from their family. Some are al traumatized by the treatment they received while in the foster care system. Their unique barriers to higher educational opportunities stem from these traumas.*
As a result, they do not reach the level of maturity needed to function in the higher educational environment. They often lack the skills required for self-sufficiency. They often cannot keep appointments, manage a bank account, find an apartment, shop for groceries, cook a meal, drive a car, navigate public transportation and undertake other basic tasks of self-sufficiency which are a pre-requisite for success in higher education.
Foster youth often develop mental illness and emotional problems which serve as significant barriers to higher education. Among the problems are major depression, social phobia, anxiety and stress disorders. Foster youth often do not receive treatment because they lack the life skills to seek treatment. Thus, their ability to finish high school and the process to complete a college degree is compromised. *
Foster youth are frequently less prepared for college level work then their peers. They may have changed schools due to several placements, causing them to fall behind their peers.
Foster youth with a high school diploma or equivalent due not enroll in college due to low expectations with regard to educational achievement. They also may not be aware of the college opportunities available and do not have the skills to complete the college application process.*
Foster youth need a knowledgeable adult to help them apply for financial aid—a mentor. Students who do not have mentors may unnecessarily incur loan debt or leave school without a diploma due to lack of financial resources. A mentor, high school counselor or college financial aid counselor can all provide valuable assistance.
A mentor can help a student keep organized financial aid information, review that information, research scholarships, student loans and other types of financial aid. The mentor can also assist with completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and other financial aid forms.
Exploring financial aid begins with finding out what the costs will be, researching financial aid available to cover those costs and then setting up a financial budget of anticipated expenses.
To get attendance costs for a specific school, use the College Quick Finder. Go to http://apps.collegeboard.com/search/index.jsp. In the search box, type the school’s name you’re interested in. Or, click a letter to see a list and then find the school. Click See Profile, and then click Cost & Financial Aid. **
Foster youth frequently do not attend high school college nights due to lack of parental support. They should use the resources at their high schools, specifically the high school counselor who specializes in financial aid. Students should also contact the financial aid office at their chosen school for information on federal aid and grants, scholarships, work-study and loan programs.
Financial aid resources
- Especially for Students, Portal for Student Aid, provides information on all scholarships, loans, financial aid planning, and portals to all federal financial aid Web sites. Go to www.ed.gov/students. Click Portal for Student Aid, and then click the Funding tab.
- Fund Your Future, Student Financial Aid Brochures, provides an overview of the major financial aid programs, including eligibility, how to apply, and deadlines. Go to www.edfund.org/students. In the Financial Aid Planning box, click Publications.**
An educational budget includes a detailed list of expenses and listing of sources to cover those expenses. They will need to develop a 12 month budget. When making the decision to live on campus versus off campus, the costs of commuting—gasoline, parking, car insurance and maintenance need to be considered. Living on campus would also allow the student access to social and academic support. Students should also explore work-study opportunities or other on campus employment.