By Luis Castilla
Foster care is often overlooked as a financial factor, but the Chafee Grant’s age extension provides older foster students a new form of financial aid.
The California Chafee Grant for current and former foster students extended its eligibility age from 22 to 26 in September.
The grant offers students up to $5,000 in financial aid per academic year to help pay for college, child care and transportation.
The age extension allows anyone who has spent at least one day under foster care between the ages of 16 and 18 and hasn’t turned 26 by July 1 of the award year to apply for the grant.
To apply for the Chafee Grant, students must submit their FAFSA or, if they do not have a Social Security Number, submit their California Dream Act Application. Once this is done, students must submit the California Chafee Grant Application online at chafee.csac.ca.gov.
The Chafee Grant’s age extension, or Assembly Bill AB 3089, is an amendment to Section 69519 of the Education Code, which provides grant aid to former and current foster youth in California. Previously, students could only apply for the grant up to their 23rd birthday.
The latest data on East Los Angeles College’s student demographics, from fall 2014, show that 0.9 percent of students were former or current foster youth.
This percentage was significantly higher than in previous years.
In fall 2012, 0.3 percent of students were former or current foster youth and in fall 2013, it was 0.6 percent.
The data for ELAC’s last five years is unavailable, but based on studies compiled by California College Pathways, as of 2017, 85 percent of foster youth turn to community colleges as their first choice for higher education.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, less than three percent of foster youth in the U.S. graduate from a four-year college.
The analysis of the bill says that across California, only 3,499 students were awarded the grant between 2016 and 2017.
Because the age limit of the grant was extended by four years, more foster students have the opportunity to take advantage of it.
Sharon Sharon Quirk-Silva and Tony Thurmond, the authors of Assembly Bill AB 3089 said that, “Often times, foster youth do not learn of the program until they have exceeded the age limit or are only able to benefit from the program for a limited time despite not having completed their degree.”
For more information on the Chafee Grant, visit the financial aid office at E3-135.