House approves Alston’s bill helping former foster kids afford college
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The House of Representatives recently approved a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 24), that would create educational benefits for some young adults who have aged out of Arizona’s foster care system.
Alston said SB 1208 would create a five-year pilot program to help qualified students, who were previously in foster care, attend Arizona public universities and community colleges by instituting a tuition waiver scholarship.
“Giving Arizona’s foster care children an educational advantage will help them find the success they so dearly deserve. Once foster care children turn 18, they often have little support,” Alston said. “This is a huge disadvantage if they want to go to college, since they will need to be working to pay for their own cost of living.”
SB 1208 requires students who qualify for the tuition waiver pilot program to apply for federal tuition assistance, reducing the amount Arizona would need to provide. All recipients of the tuition waiver must perform at least 30 hours of community service each semester.
Additional requirements include:
- Arizona residency
- An age limit of 21 and inclusion in the foster care system by the age of 16
- Acceptance or enrollment in a state university or community college
- Financial need
“If the governor signs this bill, it will open bright doors for these youth. The ability to afford college will be more attainable,” Alston said. “The idea behind providing tuition waivers gives a student the ability to achieve a secure and financially successful future with a college degree. SB 1208 could also reduce future needs of these individuals for governmental assistance.”
According to a Pew Charitable Trust report, nationally one in four foster youth are incarcerated within two years of aging out of foster care. Only half of those youth will graduate high school, and of those who do, less than 3 percent ever earn a college degree.
“We need legislation like SB 1208 to improve these young Arizonans’ chances for success,” Alston said. “Working on this bill has been a personal highlight of this session, and I hope the governor will recognize the importance of this effort.”
On Wednesday, the Arizona House of Representative voted 49 to 9 to pass the bill. It now goes back to the Senate. For more information on the Pew Charitable Trust report, go to http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=26136.