Paying for Higher Education

As a youth in foster care you're eligible for tuition assistance.
Former Youths in Care

There's no denying it. A college education is expensive. But as a youth in care you're eligible for financial assistance associated with the cost of attendance. This assistance is available from several sources

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

The first step in paying for college is applying for federal financial aid. You do this by completing and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. FAFSA is the application used by almost all colleges and universities to determine the federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid you are eligible to receive. A new FAFSA must be filed each year to be considered for most types of financial aid. Follow these steps to apply for financial aid!

Independent Student Status

As a youth in care, or a former youth in care, you are more than likely eligible to be considered for Independent Student Status. The Department of Education uses a set of criteria for determining if a student is considered Independent for financial aid purposes. If a person is considered Independent, this means that his/her custodial parents’ financial information is NOT considered when determining the student's financial aid, and therefore NOT required on the FAFSA. If the student is an orphan (both parents deceased) or ward of the court or in foster care on or after their 13th birthday, even if they have subsequently been adopted, or was a ward of the court until age 18. This also applies for youth in kinship guardianship. For a complete list of the criteria visit Student Financial Aid Services Inc., Determining FAFSA Dependency page. Make sure you check the "Ward/dependency of the state or courts" box on your FAFSA form so you can receive all of the aid you’re eligible for. You may need to show proof of your Independent Status. Ask your caseworker for a letter stating your independent status on agency letterhead.


The Senator José Peralta New York State DREAM Act gives undocumented and other students access to New York State‐administered grants and scholarships that support their higher education costs. Visit for information and the application.

Selective Service information

All male students between the ages of 18 and 25 must be registered with Selective Service to be eligible for Federal student loan and grant programs, including Pell GrantsFederal Work Study, and Stafford Loans.

You can register with Selective Service by checking the appropriate box on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). (Note: If you are not yet 18, your data will not be transmitted to Selective Service and you will not be registered.) You can also register with Selective Service online at their web site.

Additional information on this topic may be found on the Selective Service web site in the registration information section.

Specific Financial Aid Resources for Youth in Care/Former Youth in Care

There are specific resources that are available to youth who are or who have been in foster care that can help you pay for college. Some of them are:

New York Education Training Voucher (ETV)

The Education Training Voucher awards grants to current and former youth in foster care to help you pay for college. ETV grants are funded by the federal government and administered by New York State. You may be eligible to receive grants up to $5,000 per academic year for qualified school-related expenses.

Youth eligible for vouchers under this program are foster care youth and former foster care youth who have not yet attained the age of 21 years who are eligible for services under the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP), and youth adopted from foster care after the age of 16.This also applies for youth in kinship guardianship. A youth participating in the ETV program when he or she attains 21 years of age may remain eligible until the youth attains 23 years of age, provided the youth continues to be enrolled in and attending a postsecondary educational or vocational training program and is making satisfactory progress toward completion of that program. Your local district is responsible for determinining your eligibility for this program.

If approved, ETV can pay the follow expenses (listed in order of priority):

  • Tuition
  • Balances due at school
  • On-campus room and board
  • Meal cards
  • Books and school supplies (such as uniforms, tools, equipment)
  • One computer package
  • Federal Student Loans
  • Study abroad through qualifying schools

It is important to know that you need to reapply each year for this grant money. Please ask for assistance from a caseworker or other supportive adult to help you fill out the application if you don't feel comfortable doing it alone.

Foster Care to Success: America's College Fund for Foster Youth

Each year, Foster Care to Success awards millions of dollars in scholarships and grants to more than 3,500 students in all 50 states and serves thousands more youth who are still in high school and just starting the college application process. Supported by volunteer mentors and coaches, FCS students have a remarkable 70% graduation rate after five years—three times the rate of other independent students. These former foster youth go on to build productive, successful lives, raising families and, significantly, often becoming volunteers in their own communities.

Foster care maintenance payments

If you are currently a foster youth and attending college away from your foster care setting, the foster care maintenance payment may be available to help pay for your college room and board. Be sure to check with your caseworker for more information.

Other Resources for Financial Aid


The Higher Education Services Corporation web site is where you can find a comprehensive guide to grants, loans and scholarships under their "Pay for College" section and information about how the financial aid process works under their "Apply for Aid - Start Here" section.

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Their web site is where you go to submit a free application for Federal Student Aid. The site also provides lots of information on grants (PELL, SEOG, ACG), student loans, scholarships and other sources of financial aid (TAP). Their FAFSA4caster will help you understand your options for paying for college. And by calling their hotline, 1-800-4FEDAID, you can get your questions about student aid answered for free.

College Board

College Board is a not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. They can help you understand all of your options when it comes to paying for college, and help you get the latest information about college costs, scholarships, financial aid applications and college financing.


Scholarships are financial aid monies you are awarded and typically don’t have to be repaid. They can be awarded based on need, academic merit, academic concentration, interests or many other criteria. To learn more about searching for scholarships, visit


Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses.


You should be careful when taking out educational loans. There are many different types of loans out there, so being educated is very important to ensuring you are in the least amount of debt possible. Be sure to exhaust all free student aid in the form of grants and scholarships -- that's money you don't have to pay back. Next, if you need a higher education loan, explore the loans available from the federal government. The key is to be a smart borrower. Read more about smart borrowing,..