Mississippi may be lining up to join the 38 states that already offer scholarships or tuition waivers for young people who have spent time in the foster care system.
In early February, the state House finished work on House Bill 1313 and sent it with overwhelming support to the Senate. Authored by Richard Bennett (R), the bill would create the Fostering Access and Inspiring True Hope (FAITH) Scholarship Program. People who have spent all or part of their teenage years in foster care would be eligible for tuition waivers at the state’s community colleges or universities.
Such youth up to age 26 could participate if pursuing job certification or an undergraduate degree. They would also get guidance on how to apply for college. The scholarship would be open to people in the foster system at the time they apply as well as to those who spent part of their teen years in foster care but were adopted or reunited with their birth families.
Late last month, the Senate Universities and and Colleges Committee amended the bill with added provisions for housing and additional clarification on which youth who have experienced foster care qualify. Specifically, it dropped the age of eligibility from those who entered CPS custody after turning 13 (as opposed to 14 and older). On March 1, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the bill, now headed for a full vote on the Senate floor.
In a recent AP article, a young man who was in foster care from 16 to 21 said he left school due to financial constraints. Scentrellis Dixon, 25, was studying psychology at Jackson State University and was close to graduating when he took a break. He expressed why the program is important for students like himself.
“It opens the door for a lot more foster kids to feel like they can actually go to college and complete it,” Dixon told the AP. “I feel like a lot of emphasis is put on the ‘getting to college’ part and not on the ‘staying in college’ part. With this bill … you no longer have to worry about the financial hurdle of staying in college.”
The program would provide 150 scholarships to students each year until it reached its maximum of 900 scholarship recipients.