July 14, 2023

California’s Foster Youth Reach New Heights with Record-High Financial Aid Application Rates

California’s Foster Youth Reach New Heights with Record-High Financial Aid Application Rates

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) Youth Advocate Patrick Gem Gabbett has relied on financial aid, like many other foster youth, to pursue higher education. “Foster youth don’t have connections the same way other kids do. Financial aid is the reason I have been able to get to this point in life. It’s the reason I can still afford college today.”

Historically, foster youth have experienced lower academic outcomes, due to a range of factors, including a lack of help applying for financial aid. High school seniors who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are twice as likely to enroll in college within 12 months as those who do not.

To ensure foster youth have the financial support they need, JBAY has led a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster youth who complete the FAFSA as well as the California Dream Act Application (CADAA), which is the financial aid application for students who are non-citizens.

The results are now in for the 6th Annual California Foster Youth FAFSA/CADAA Challenge – and there is reason to celebrate! California reached a 65% completion rate during the 2022-2023 school year, the highest rate since the project started in 2017.

According to Senior Project Manager of Education Sarah Pauter, higher rates translate into more college attendance. “Since the start of the Challenge in 2017, the statewide completion rate has increased from 45% to 65%, indicating that more foster youth are accessing the financial aid needed to pursue postsecondary education and achieve their long-term goals.”

“This year’s 65% completion rate is also reassuring given the recent declines in application completion among low-income and minority student populations due to the pandemic. I’m hopeful we’ll continue this upward trend and reach a 70% statewide completion rate next year.”

In addition to a high statewide rate, Los Angeles County reached an all-time high of 71%, with 656 applications completed!

For LaShona Jenkins, Project Director at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, collaboration is key. “All our community partners and stakeholders frequently met to interpret data, strategize, and divide tasks. As a result, we successfully multiplied our success with FAFSA/CADAA completion among students in foster care.”

This year also marks the second year that JBAY has extended the challenge to students who have experienced homelessness in partnership with SchoolHouse Connection and the California Department of Education. Research shows that successful completion of the FAFSA or CADAA is the single most important step in ensuring that students facing homelessness enroll and persist in college.

In 2023, a total of 47 Local Education Agencies (LEA) participated in the challenge, which resulted in a combined completion rate of 62%, an increase from 46% during the first year of the challenge.

Skip to content