Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If You Were Ever In Foster Care, You May Be Eligible For Financial Aid

By Michelle Conner

Planning for college and university studies and the financial aid it takes to participate in them? Many of these youngsters are wondering where their next meals might come from, which home they might be sent to next. They tend to also have low-self esteem and fear for their futures.

That's according to an author who spent 10 years in foster care before she was adopted. This young woman is in the minority. She graduated from a college in St. Petersburg, Fla., and she suggested that unlike many others in the lives of foster care youngsters, financial aid advisers offer an opportunity. Getting more information about grants for single moms can be to your benefit.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators interviewed this woman for an online podcast. Students from foster care are among several groups who are considered underrepresented in higher education. The podcast cites Casey Family Foundation findings that nearly 75 percent of youngsters in foster care talk about a college or university education but fewer than 2 percent go on and obtain a bachelor's degree.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 460,000 children at some point during 2008 were in foster care. By 2020, Casey Family Programs wants to cut that number in half. Casey Family Programs works in part to enhance foster care and in part to prevent the need for it. The foundation also has a 2009 foster care-higher education related report from the Education Advisory Board posted on its website.

Because some 25 percent of the kids in foster care in the United States are in California, the report is centered largely around offerings at colleges and universities on the west coast. It's important, the Education Advisory Board report authors note, that foster care students at colleges and universities are provided support - with academics, financial aid and emotional issues.

Foster care students at some colleges might find scholarship opportunities especially for them, the report suggests. In instances where dedicated scholarships aren't available, there are often financial aid advisers who work specifically to help them locate grants and scholarships. The report emphasizes the importance of services, such as specialized academic advisers and drop-in centers. There is an abundance more information about education scholarship on the web.

While financial aid might help students out of foster care continue working toward a college or university degree, these students need more than that, the Education Advisory Board report suggests. The report recommends that colleges and universities assign a designated person who would be able to recruit others from areas such as counseling, academic advising and financial aid to help foster care students. Additional recommendations in the report include providing foster care students opportunities for priority campus housing and the ability to reside on campus during breaks as well as forming an advisory committee that would give feedback on foster student programs.

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