Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed a bill last week that will provide free college and technical school tuition for Mississippi foster youth through a scholarship fund.
“We have a responsibility to ensure those children growing up in foster care have the opportunity to turn their struggles into strengths,” Reeves said in a press release.
House Bill 1313 will establish the State Representative Bill Kinkade Fostering Access and Inspiring True Hope (or Faith) Scholarship Program. Named after a current state representative who grew up in foster care, the fund will provide $1 million in state scholarships for public and private school fees for young people who were in state custody on or after their 13th birthday. Young adults under 25 will be eligible to apply for the scholarships starting in the 2023-2024 academic year, and can use the funding for up to five years in pursuit of higher education.
That money can be used to cover tuition, fees and room and board expenses at any Mississippi state or private nonprofit university or community college. The Kinkade Scholarship funds can also be used for on-campus housing costs during school breaks and holidays.
With the new law, Mississippi will join at least 38 other states that already offer scholarships or tuition waivers to young people who have spent time in foster care.
“Everybody’s gonna have a chance to go to college,” former foster youth Bertie Bryant said to a local television reporter. “They’re not gonna have to worry about if they’re gonna have the money or not.”
In addition to postsecondary education assistance for foster youth, Tate also announced last week that Mississippi has received $1.7 million from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. As part of a public-private partnership, the money will fund 10 experienced adoption specialists with the state’s Department of Child Protection Services.