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Home » Student Success » Access & Opportunity in Education » Foster Care » Postsecondary Education

Postsecondary Education

The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as foster youth and practitioners, developed this Foster Care Transition Toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood.

New FASFA Rules for Students in Foster Care—January 2021

On December 27th, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 was signed into law. This legislation includes significant new financial aid policies, including revisions to the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness and former foster youth. Please read the full SchoolHouse Connection resource, New FAFSA Policies for Homeless and Foster Youth to learn more.

Important Guidance

If a young person has been in foster care at any time after turning 13, his or her classes will likely be paid for at most Washington State colleges. A young person turning 18 in foster care has even more resources available to them. A guide to maximizing financial aid resources for young people from foster care, including a scholarship eligibility quiz, can be found on the Ready Set Grad website. See below for other important resources.

FAFSA Question 53

At any time since you turned age 13, were both of your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent or ward of the court?

A youth applying for FAFSA should answer yes to question 53. If they are unsure of their foster care status they can contact their DCYF Regional Education Lead to find out. They should ask the liaison to fill out a "Dependent/ Ward of the Court Verification Letter." The youth should be sure to print and keep several copies of this document because the college may ask for it to verify their status as a foster youth.

For more information, go to: Understanding the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Determining Student Independent Status

Educational Training Vouchers (ETV's)

  • Students may receive up to $5000 a year for qualified school related expenses. Funding is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible students.
  • Students may be eligible for ETV if they meet any one of the following:
    • They are 16 to 20, currently in a dependency action in a Washington State or Tribal Court, are in the care and custody of the Department of Social and Health Services or Tribal Child Welfare agency, and are in foster care.
    • They are 18 to 20 and exited state or tribal foster care because they reached the age of majority.
    • The student was adopted or entered a relative guardianship on or after the age of 16 to 20.
    • If the student has participated and received ETV funds prior to 21, they are eligible to the age of 23.

Find out more on the Independence for Washington State Foster Youth website

Passport to Careers

Passport to Careers is a comprehensive program providing support to students from high school through higher education completion. Three primary components are administered by the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC): 1) a student scholarship, 2) campus incentive funding to provide recruitment and retention services, and 3) a partnership with the College Success Foundation to provide support to students and training and technical assistance to campus staff.

The primary purpose of the Passport program is to provide former foster youth with financial assistance beyond other state, federal, private, and institutional financial aid for which they are eligible. In addition, the program provides incentive funding to postsecondary institutions that designate campus support staff and take other steps to recruit and retain former foster youth.

In the 2014-15 academic year, 376 students were served. Since 2008, the Passport scholarship has been awarded to an average of 325 students annually.

A groundbreaking data exchange was developed between WSAC, DCYF, and colleges to enable verification of student eligibility. Intensive support services on college campuses assist student retention rates and postsecondary success. Currently, 50 institutions are participating in the "viable plan" to offer these support services.

More information about the Passport Scholarship can be found on the Ready Set Grad website.

Supplemental Education Transition Planning Program (SETuP)

SETuP provides information to youth, foster families, and school staff about post-high school education and training opportunities for youth in foster care. Contracted SETuP providers in your region can help young people get SETuP for college by offering:

  • Financial Aid application assistance.
  • Transportation and Housing information and assistance.
  • College Application coaching and assistance.
  • Pre-College Testing guidance based on educational goals.
  • Course planning to help achieve educational goals.
  • Resource Links to programs and services especially for youth ages 14-21 in foster care.

Washington State Governors' Scholarship for Foster Youth

The Washington State Governors' Scholarship for Foster Youth is a scholarship program that helps young men and women from foster care continue their education and earn a college degree.

The program has been supported by the current and former governors in Washington State. Proceeds from the Governors' Cup - an annual golf tournament - provide funding for approximately 40 - 50 new scholars each year.

Scholarship award amounts range from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the college of attendance. The scholarship can be accessed for up to five years to complete an undergraduate study. Students must be enrolled full time and maintain satisfactory academic progress in order to renew the scholarship each year.

You can find more information on the College Success Foundation website.