Starting with the fall 2020 semester, Pennsylvania youth who have been in foster care will be able to attend any college or university in Pennsylvania tuition free thanks to a waiver program signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf this June.
Director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State Jennie Noll says the waivers will benefit a population that often has bad outcomes.
“The pathway for foster youth is quite difficult. Many of them drop out of high school, many of them go on to have some homelessness or some other sorts of problems like substance use, teen pregnancy, HIV," Noll said.
A 2014 study found that 84% of foster youth around the country wanted to attend college. Only 20% actually attended. Noll says cost is often a barrier.
“To be able to have their expenses paid, that’s what’s going to raise those graduation rates and that’s what’s going to heighten the success and the life trajectory of these really vulnerable youth," Noll said.
Pennsylvania joins other states including Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts in waiving tuition for foster youth.