TCOE wins foster youth financial aid challenge

Tulare County is the only county in California to have all of its eligible high school seniors in foster care apply for college financial aid

TULARE COUNTY – Tulare County won the small county category of the California Foster Youth FAFSA/CADAA Challenge as the only county in California to reach a 100% application completion rate.

Thirty-four eligible foster youth completed their financial aid applications by the March 2 priority deadline. Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) Foster and Homeless Youth Education Services was awarded $1,000 for the achievement.

Winners in other categories included Santa Barbara County for the very small county category, Fresno County for the medium county category and Riverside County for the large county category. Los Angeles County submitted the most applications, with 625 foster youth completing financial aid applications.

The California Foster Youth FAFSA/CADAA Challenge is a statewide campaign to help foster youth attend college sponsored by John Burton Advocates for Youth in partnership with the California Department of Education and the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.

The challenge encourages high school seniors in foster care to complete either the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act Application (CADAA), both of which are loan programs to help students pay for college. FAFSA is an application for any form of federal or state aid. CADAA is specifically for undocumented students or students who otherwise do not qualify for FAFSA due to immigration status and is only used to apply for state aid.

This is the second time since the challenge began in 2017 that foster youth in California completed financial aid applications at a higher rate than their non-foster peers. In 2021-2022, 62.6% of high school seniors in the foster system applied for FAFSA or CADAA, exceeding the 57% of all high school seniors that applied. The rate of high school seniors in foster care applying for financial aid is trending up from the 2020-2021 school year when only 55% of foster youth submitted financial aid applications.

According to John Burton Advocates for Youth, 90% of high school seniors who complete FAFSA go on to enroll in college within a year. Only 45% of high school seniors who do not complete a financial aid application go on to enroll in college. Students in foster care often do not complete a FAFSA application, meaning they are less likely to attend college. The challenge offers incentives for counties to help foster youth complete the crucial first step of applying for financial aid.

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