Education Breakthrough from a Foster Care Alum: Loan Forgiveness Program for Foster Youth

I have dedicated my career to serving foster youth who need access to support and resources so they can become self-sufficient and successful in their futures. I have noticed that my strong point is addressing foster youth in terms of education.

My interest in education for foster youth started back at the 2014 California Foster Youth Education Summit, hosted by the California Foster Youth Education Task Force, where I learned about essential educational support tools and current bills that were in circulation. That was when I heard the statistics about foster youth and education: Fifty percent of foster youth graduate from high school, 80 percent express interest in attending college but only 20 percent actually attend. From there, 80 percent of those foster youth who enter college do not make it past their second year due to different factors such as low GPA, stress, and the burden of student loans. Fewer than 3 percent of those receive a Bachelor’s Degree.

After hearing these statistics, I knew I wanted to contribute. My passion was ignited to help foster youth in any way I could, and my first focus was education. Speaking about my views on the foster youth population at multiple conferences, on panels before public officials, non-profit organizations, and county and education representatives had shaped me into a professional advocate who wishes to make changes at all levels.

Foster Youth Are Not Statistics 

I designed the Foster Youth Student Loan Forgiveness Program to de-stigmatize the current statistics, to allow foster youth to be able to complete their education at a four-year institution as well as beyond into graduate school, and to teach the importance of being responsible young adults. Foster youth currently enrolled at four-year institutions, who have been accepted to attend a four-year institution, or who are currently attending or have been accepted to a trade or vocational school would be eligible to participate.

In this proposed program, once a youth took out their first set of loans, he or she would be required to submit a copy of their dependency letter to the Federal Student Aid Commission, verifying the certain points of time the individual was in the foster care system. The guidelines to this program are as follows:

If a current/former foster youth graduates from a trade/vocational school and has subsidized or unsubsidized loans:

  • Repayment of loans for two years or 24 qualifying payments on a “Pay As You Earn Income Repayment Plan.”
  • Percentage of interest on unsubsidized loans would be 0% APR due to this special program. Individuals who are eligible only pay what they take out.
  • Once they have made two years or 24 payments, the rest of the balance owed is forgiven.

If a current/former foster youth graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree and has subsidized or unsubsidized loans:

  • Repayment of loans for three years or 36 qualifying payments on a “Pay As You Earn Income Repayment Plan.”
  • Percentage of interest on unsubsidized loans would be 0% APR due to this special program. Individuals who are eligible only pay what they take out.
  • Once they have made three years or 36 payments, the rest of the balance owed is forgiven.

If a current/former foster youth graduates with a master’s degree and has subsidized or unsubsidized loans:

  • Repayment of the sum of both bachelor’s and master’s degree loans for five years, or 60 qualifying payments on a “Pay As You Earn Income Repayment Plan.”
  • Percentage of interest on unsubsidized loans would be 0% APR due to this special program. Individuals who are eligible only pay what they take out.
  • Once they have made five years or 60 payments, the rest of the balance owed is forgiven.

I shared this idea with Congressmember Karen Bass, and I have been invited to meet with her in June to discuss the idea in more detail. I have also sent the idea to Congressmember Judy Chu. A couple of weeks ago, I also presented it to educators as well as child welfare professionals at the 2016 Foster Youth Education Summit where it received positive response and also tips for improvement.

If this idea had the chance to become a bill and then law, it would change the education system among foster youth throughout the world. It would allow foster youth to be able to push through higher education without having the burden of long-term student loans or having stress on their minds. This idea can improve higher educational success rates among foster youth.

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