October 21, 2022

Up for the Challenge: Making Financial Aid Accessible for Foster and Homeless Youth

Up for the Challenge: Making Financial Aid Accessible for Foster and Homeless Youth

On October 1st, JBAY kicked off another year of the Foster Youth Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and California Dream Act Application (CADAA) Challenge. Through the 2022-2023 school year, California counties plan to increase the number of high school seniors in foster care who apply for financial aid and receive the maximum amount of funding available to pursue postsecondary education. 

While foster youth have clear interests in attending college, many decide not to enroll. Financial aid makes a huge difference–high school graduates that complete the FAFSA are 63% more likely to enroll in higher education–but the process can be difficult. Foster youth do not have as much guidance in filling out applications, and may not realize that college is, in fact, financially possible for them. 

Since 2017, JBAY has seen a remarkable rise in statewide foster youth FAFSA completion rates from 45% to 62%. This year for the 6th annual FAFSA/CADAA Challenge, our goal is to reach a 70% statewide completion rate, which would be a new peak. 

“The Foster Youth FAFSA/CADAA Challenge was created to address the historically low rates of foster youth in California who apply for financial aid,” says Senior Education Program Manager Sarah Pauter. “Given that financial aid is crucial to enrolling and persisting in college, it’s important that foster youth have the same access to it as their peers. In the past two years of the Challenge, foster youth have applied for financial aid at higher rates than the general high school senior population, which is a monumental step towards reaching educational equity.”

Building upon the success of the Foster Youth FAFSA/CADAA Challenge, JBAY, in partnership with SchoolHouse Connection and the California Department of Education, launched a statewide financial aid completion campaign for homeless students. The FAFSA/CADAA Challenge for Students Experiencing Homelessness is the first of its kind in the nation, and consists of 77 local education agencies spanning 36 counties. 

“The response from agencies in the Challenge for homeless students has been incredible,” says Sarah. “Their commitment to increasing financial aid application completion among high school seniors experiencing homelessness gives me a lot of confidence that we will be able to replicate the same success as we’ve seen with foster youth.”