Gov. Brown signs bill to help foster youth attend college
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed an Assembly bill that will open doors for more of the state’s 60,000 foster youth to attend college.
Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, who authored the legislation, Assembly Bill 3089, made the announcement Friday in a press release.
The bill allows the California Student Aid Commission and the Department of Social Services to do outreach to foster youth that are newly eligible, through age limit expansion, for the Chafee Educational and Training Voucher, a federal program, augmented by state funds, that provides educational vouchers to former foster youth attending college. Eligible foster youth may apply for and receive up to $5,000 annually for tuition, training, and other education expenses.
Thurmond, who is seeking to become California’s new state schools chief in November, worked with Brown to add an additional $4 million in this year’s state budget to expand age eligibility for the voucher, to 26 years. It was previous capped at age 22.
“As a former social worker, I understand that many times former foster youth do not learn of the Chafee ETV program until they have already exceeded the age limit,” Thurmond said in the prepared statement. “Those who are aware of the program are generally only able to benefit from it for a limited time; often not long enough to have completed their degree. This bill ensures that former foster youth who are newly eligible for the grant will have access to this financial assistance.”
California has the largest population of foster youth in the nation, at more than 60,000, but data shows that only 4 percent of former foster youth earned a college degree as compared to more than one-third for the same age general population. Many factors contribute to poor educational outcomes for former foster youth, including financial instability, according to Thurmond.
He noted the Chafee voucher has a”proven track record” of providing critical support and improving student outcomes. Youth that receive the voucher are 52 percent more likely to complete three semesters or more of community college, receive higher grades, and have a higher likelihood of completing their courses, Thurmond pointed out.
The bill was brought to Thurmond by foster youth advocates from Journey House, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping former foster youth with housing, jobs, and education. For the past 35 years, Journey House has primarily focused its resources to serve former foster youth who are 22 years of age and older.
Thurmond represents the 15th Assembly District, comprised of the cities of Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Hercules, Kensington, Piedmont, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, Tara Hills, and part of Oakland.