Foster youth continue to face lower educational outcomes than their non-foster youth peers, particularly when it comes to postsecondary education. By age 26, just 4 percent of former foster youth have earned a Bachelor’s degree, compared to 36 percent of the same-age population of young adults. Multiple studies have shown that receiving financial aid positively impacts grade point average, transfer rates, and undergraduate degree attainment, but currently, just 9 percent of California foster and former foster youth receive a Cal Grant, the state’s largest financial aid program.
This week First Place traveled to Sacramento to show our support for SB 940 in the Senate Education Committee.
Authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), a long-time legislative champion for foster youth, and sponsored by John Burton Advocates for Youth, SB 940 addresses three key barriers to accessing the Cal Grant, as identified by a John Burton Advocates survey of current and former foster youth.
- Removes the requirement for foster youth to apply for an entitlement Cal Grant within one year of high school graduation, instead allowing them to apply for and receive an entitlement Cal Grant up to age 26.
- Extends the length of time a foster youth is eligible for the Cal Grant from 4 to 8 years.
- Extends the deadline for the Cal Grant entitlement application from March 2nd to September 2nd for foster youth applying to attend community college.
Heather Huddleston, a former First Place participant, attended the hearing and offered passionate testimony to the Education Committee:
My name is Heather Huddleston and I attend Laney Community College in Oakland. I am here today to support SB 940.
I am a former foster youth and have been in care since I was 15 years old. The day the state decided to take me away from my family was the day I believe the state took on the responsibility to support me in my future aspirations, which include pursuing higher education.
As we all know, adulthood comes with many price tags, many of which foster youth cannot afford. This can discourage us and keep us locked in a tunnel vision dream—paralyzed and stagnant. SB 940 would ultimately increase the chances for foster youth to obtain degrees that would keep them away from the poverty line and encourage stable living. Thank you for your support.
Heather met with Senator Beall after the hearing, and he thanked her for her moving testimony.
The bill was passed unanimously by the committee members and will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations committee, where it may face opposition for its potential costs. If the bill is successful in the Senate Appropriations committee it would then move on to the full Senate and eventually to the Assembly and Governor for consideration. First Place will continue to offer our strong support as SB 940 moves through the process.