College Scholarships for Foster Youth

Foster youth deal with challenges that can make higher education hard to access. Discover college scholarships for foster youth.

portrait of Catherine Lafuente
by Catherine Lafuente

Published September 7, 2022

Edited by Lorraine Mumby
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College Scholarships for Foster Youth
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According to the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI), only 50% of U.S. foster youth graduate from high school. Less than 3% graduate from a four-year college. These low completion rates are due to a variety of factors, including unstable home life, not enough financial support (from family or the government), and a lack of access to technology.

However, foster youth scholarships can help this vulnerable population access higher education. So how can they find scholarships for college and beat the odds?

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Financial Challenges of Foster Youth

Many foster youths live below the poverty line when they are in high school. By the time they get to college, they have to manage new financial challenges. Once out of the foster care system, they must pay for housing, food, tuition, books, and a computer with internet.

Per NFYI, only 3% of foster youth earn a degree from a four-year college. Navigating college life is difficult when resources are limited. But foster youth can go to college for free, graduate, and find gainful employment.

Featured Scholarships

Horatio Alger Association National Scholarship

Family Fellowship Scholarship

All-Star College Scholarship

Casey Family Services Alumni Scholarship

David E. Ballard Scholarship

Jennifer Casey Alderman Legacy Scholarship Award

Roadway Worker Memorial Scholarship Program

Orphan Society of America Postsecondary Education Scholarship Program

Foster Care to Success Scholarship

ReWritten Scholarship

Grants and Tuition Waivers for Foster Youth

Education and Training Voucher Grant

California State University Tuition Waiver

New York State Excelsior Scholarship Program

Texas State College Tuition Waiver

Florida Independent Living Tuition and Fee Exemption

Additional Ways to Find Financial Resources

  1. Chafee grants in each state, such as the California Chafee Grant (up to $5,000) and the Chafee Funds Program of New York State ($1,750) are good options for foster youth looking for college grants.
  2. Check in with your specific university as they can show you how to search for scholarships and may offer their own. For example, the University of Washington offers a diversity scholarship of up to $40,000.
  3. Counties, municipalities, and local organizations are other possible sources of scholarships for foster youth. For example, residents of the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California can qualify for regional grants and more.
  4. If you're the first person in your family to attend college, you can look for scholarships for first-generation students. The Paul and Daisy Soros Scholarships for New Americans is just one example.
  5. You may be able to secure funding before you graduate high school if your school has a scholarship program of its own. This can include scholarships and grants for foster youth, as well as merit-based scholarships.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships for Foster Youth

What does it mean to be a foster youth?

A foster youth is a minor who cannot live with their parents due to reasons that have disrupted the family structure. Foster youth are wards of the state that they live in.

Foster youth are typically placed with other family members or foster families temporarily, though some of these arrangements may last a long time. Foster youth may live in alternative settings such as group homes or long-term care facilities.

What percentage of foster youth have a college degree?

According to NFYI, only 3% of people who have lived in foster care graduate from a four-year college. This low figure is due to the unique challenges that foster youth face, sometimes including poverty and instability. Many former foster youths have difficulties in college due to financial concerns and a lack of familial support.

Are scholarships available for foster youth students by major?

Scholarships are available for foster youth students by major. For example, the David E. Ballard Scholarship is awarded to students interested in live entertainment. Students who major in music production, hospitality, live event operations, and more may qualify.

Many other institutions also award scholarships based on major. Consult with your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office to learn about possible options.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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