If you are (or were) in a foster care program, or you know someone who is, you should acquaint yourself with the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. This important program helps foster kids transition into adulthood and cover some college or vocational training costs.
Here are three key questions and answers about how the John H. Chafee Foster Care Grant can help students coming from foster care system to get a great education:
- How can the John H. Chafee Foster Care grant help you?
- How much does the Education Training Voucher provide?
- What are other ways to pay for your education?
While other young adults are packing up for college or taking a gap year with the encouragement of their families, many former foster children are on their own, as they have aged out of the system. Once they age out, typically at age 18, foster kids no longer receive financial support from the government.
Congress passed the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA) in 1999 to help foster children transition into life as independent adults. In 2002, the FCIA was expanded to include the Chafee Education Training Voucher (ETV) program. This federally backed initiative provides students from the foster care system with funding and support for their higher education. The key focus is on kids who spend time in foster care at age 14 or older.
As part of the ETV program, a former foster child heading to college or vocational school may receive up to $5,000 a year as a grant to pay for qualifying higher education expenses. Because it’s a grant, you don’t have to pay the money back as you do with student loans, which helps make school more affordable.
You can use the ETV money for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition, textbooks, dorm fees, meal cards and paying back federal student loans. The eligibility criteria can differ from state to state, but in general, you must be:
- In foster care until the age of 18, or adopted from foster care at the age of 16 or older
- Between the ages of 18 and 20
- A U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Be enrolled in or aiming to enroll in an accredited school college or vocational school
Some states may also have limits on your personal assets, such as your savings account balance, car and home.
Applicants must typically be at least 18, but younger than 21, when they apply for the first time. Because you may be able to receive the grant for multiple years, you can reapply for additional grants to pay for your education each year until you turn 23.
Some states allow you to apply past age 23; for example, in California, you can apply for the ETV as long as you have not reached your 26th birthday as of July 1 of the award year.
How to apply
In most areas, the ETV grants provided within the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program are administered directly by the state. To apply, you can look up the child welfare agency in your state, or Google “ETV grants” and your state name.
You can also find a list of states and their application information on the Foster Care to Success ETV website. There are seven states that work directly with Foster Care to Success to administer the grants — Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New York and Ohio.
To ensure you’re eligible for the grant, you should complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), as many states require it. You might also have to prove progress toward a degree or career credential. Each state has its own limits on funding, and the programs are often first-come, first-served, so the earlier you apply for the grant, the better your chances are of getting one.
To continue to receive the grant, the states and distributing organizations require you to complete the FAFSA each year.
There are other forms that need to be completed for every term as well. These include a Financial Aid Release form and a signed Student Participation Agreement. Both documents can be completed online.
The ETV governance also requires your school to mail your transcripts at the end of every term, in order to demonstrate you are making progress toward your degree and detail the number of credits you’ve completed. You must also contact the ETV representatives twice a month to check in — either by phone or email.
People who grow up in foster care often face unique problems and challenges. But getting an education can help you make the transition out of the system. With foster care college grants such as the ETV program, you can get assistance to smooth the transition to adulthood and make your way toward a successful career path.
You may combine the ETV program with other grants or scholarships to reduce the amount of student loan debt you need to take on to pay for school. There are other grant programs specifically for people from the foster care system.
For example, if you were in foster care through Casey Family Services in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont, you may be eligible for a $10,000 scholarship. Alabama also offers the Fostering Hope scholarship, for which you can apply up until the age of 26.
If you’ve exhausted all your scholarship and grant options, you can turn to federal student loans to fill the gap and pay for your education as well. Private loans may also be an option, although you should take advantage of your grant and federal loan options first.
Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report
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College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
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3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
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UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
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Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).
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Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
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Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
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Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.