Scholarships for Foster Kids

Were you a Foster Child?

For the half million foster children* in the United States, paying for college presents formidable challenges. Fortunately, several programs initiate scholarships, grants and loans that are exclusively available to the subset of students who are adopted or currently in foster care. The number of foster care scholarships continues to grow, and the early part of the century saw several states codify new assistance and tuition waiver programs for foster kids and adoptees.

Public and private scholarships originate at the state and federal levels, providing access to college for former foster children.  Each program employs unique application protocols, so specifics are best handled by individual program administrators and campus financial aid offices.

* Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families

Private Organizations Fund Foster Child Scholarshipsfoster kid scholarships

The National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) offers scholarships designed to help foster families pay for education beyond high school.   High school seniors are encouraged to apply once they have been accepted into their state college or university. Each student is asked to submit a short essay with application materials, on a topic to be provided by the Association.

Casey Family Programs is dedicated to improving the child welfare system and  providing educational opportunities for foster children.  Organizations like Foster Care to Success administer Casey Family scholarship dollars for needy foster children.  Applicants who were in foster care for at least one year prior to reaching their 18th birthday are eligible to compete for annual scholarships worth $1500 – $6000. Casey Family Scholarships enable foster youth under the age of 25 to attend national colleges and universities.

The Darko Rapotez Memorial College Scholarship Fund for Aged Out Foster Youth is administered by Love our Children USA.  The foster youth scholarship provides between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of tuition fee assistance to children who have “aged out” of the foster care system. Participants must provide books and housing with outside funds.  Successful applicants are judged based on academic excellence and financial need.  Participants must be between the ages of 18 and 24 and maintain the program’s GPA standard of 3.0.

Horatio Alger Scholarships disburse between $2,500 and $10,000 annually, to each qualified recipient. Funds can be used to finance undergraduate education for needy adopted students pursuing bachelor’s degrees at accredited American colleges and universities.

The Orphan Foundation of America (OFA) is now known as Foster Care to Success, but the philanthropic educational mission remains focused on foster families and adopted children.  In addition to valuable Casey Family Scholarships, the group connects willing donors with the foster care children who need help paying for school.  The Sponsored Scholarship Program creates opportunities for organizations, as well as individuals, to contribute to positive outcomes for former foster care youth. U.S. former foster children under 25, with a cumulative high school GPA of at least 2.0  may apply.

North American Council on Adoptable Children stands committed to meeting the needs of waiting youths and the adoptive parents who welcome them into their lives.  The groups maintains resources for former foster kids heading into higher education.

State-Specific Foster Child Scholarships and Tuition Waiver Programs

In a decentralized federal republic, education decisions are best made close to home.  As a result, state programs are rich with opportunities for former foster care and adopted students seeking aid.  These state examples illustrate the breadth of financial assistance that is put forth in some U.S. States.


  • The State of Florida offers special college incentives for former foster children and citizens receiving independent living assistance. Foster kids, and those adopted after 1997 are waived from costs associated with any college preparatory courses of study, and completion of the State University System communications and computation skills requirements. Florida Department of Children and Families adoptees are also exempt from fees and registration costs for additional adult general education programs.


  • Kansas uses a tuition waiver program to enable foster students to attend state-subsidized colleges and universities free of charge. Applications are available in financial aid offices at state institutions of higher education.


  • Resident Kentucky foster children and adoptees are eligible for full forgiveness of tuition and mandatory fees associated with matriculation at one of the state’s four-year universities, or at schools within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Full-time enrollment must be maintained to qualify for this offer.


  • Maryland uses a program called Maryland Waiver to enable foster children to attend college.  The program is open to applicants who are in foster care at the time of their high school graduations, and to individuals who are adopted after the age of fourteen. Students who utilize the waiver agreement must be enrolled at state colleges and universities – the program does not cover costs associated with other modes of training.  Successful applicants are required to file FAFSA forms and once validated, may tap the state college waiver for up to five years.


  • As of its passage in 2000, the state maintains a Foster Child Tuition Waiver Program, enabling foster children to attend any of the 29 Massachusetts state/community colleges and universities.  Approved former and current foster child candidates are between the ages of 17-24, and must have been in foster care for at least one year under guidance of the state’s Department of Children and Families.  100% tuition waivers are provided up to age 25, for students pursuing approved undergraduate credentials at state schools.  Birth certificates accompany application materials.


  • Maine students under protection of the Department of Health and Human Services, or participating in foster care programs at high school graduation time are eligible to attend any Maine post-secondary institution of higher-learning for free.

New Jersey

  • New Jersey state residents are eligible for full tuition offsets at state colleges and universities.  Foster Care Scholarships and Grants lift adopted and foster children into higher education at public and private schools within the state.


  • The Oregon Student Assistance Commission controls funding for Opportunity Grants and other tuition assistance aimed at educating this state’s foster children. Awards vary based on funding,  but commonly have values around $4,500 to $5,000 each.


  • The Pennsylvania State Foster Parent Association (PSFPA) operates a scholarship fund to assist the state’s foster children. Seniors who are currently in private or public foster care in Pennsylvania are encouraged to apply.

South Dakota

  • A WIA Scholarship worth $3,000 is dispensed annually by the South Dakota Department of Labor (WIA) for foster children attending any of the state’s vocational or technical schools.


  • 2003 legislation ensures that qualified former foster kids are well-educated at state schools.  In order to receive aid under the Texas tuition waiver provision, a student must be adopted and the subject of an assistance agreement between the student’s adoptive parents and the State Department of Family and Protective Services


  • Former foster care children benefit from Virginia Tuition Grants that help them into the ranks of post-secondary education. Great Expectations is a Virginia resource that helps foster kids track college aid and other assistance for adopted residents.


  • The Governor’s Scholarship, initiated in 2001, helps children who are transitioning out of foster care programs and continuing-on to pursue post-secondary studies at eligible colleges in the state of Washington. Scholarships are valued between $1,000 and $5,000 each, and are issued depending on each student’s level of financial need. Governor’s Scholarships can be renewed for up to four years; provided basic eligibility standards are maintained.


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