Senators McGuire and Ashby legislation making college debt free for California’s foster students passes Senate Education

Thursday, March 30, 2023

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Senator Angelique V. Ashby (D-Sacramento) and Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire (D-North Coast) released a statement as SB 307, the College for Foster Youth Act—which will make debt-free college a reality for foster students in California—passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday.

“93% of foster youth say they want to go to college, and less than 4% actually get that opportunity. SB 307 is a game changer; it means California’s most vulnerable young people will be guaranteed a debt-free experience in our CSU, UC, and community college systems. SB 307 covers any cost associated with tuition, housing, and books that has not already been covered by other means for foster youth in California,” said Senator Ashby. “Imagine telling a young person who has lost everything, including their family, that there is hope in the future and that they will have all the resources they need to attend college and emerge into adulthood without crippling debt. SB 307 protects the progress California’s leadership has made towards making college attainable for all.

“The cold hard truth is this: Foster youth have a high school dropout rate 3 times higher than any other low-income group, and just 4 percent earn a four-year college degree. Every foster youth deserves the opportunity to achieve their college dream, but in too many cases that dream is out of reach due to financial barriers and the challenges that come about in the foster system,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire. “SB 307 will change countless lives by guaranteeing California’s foster youth the financial resources to go to, and through, college debt free by covering the full cost of attendance including housing, food and books. We’re excited to partner with Senator Ashby, John Burton Advocates for Youth, and young leaders across the state on this crucial legislation.”

“We are grateful to the committee for recognizing the unique needs of foster youth, who often struggle to complete college as a result of the challenges that stem from their time in the foster care system, the long-term impacts of the abuse or neglect that brought them to the attention of the child welfare system and a lack of family support. The passage by the committee of SB 307 is an acknowledgement of the potential that these youth have to succeed in college when the necessary resources are provided. The Fostering Futures program is now one step closer to making college possible for California’s most vulnerable students,” said Debbie Raucher, Director of Education, John Burton Advocates for Youth.

Many children and youth enter foster care due to serious abuse and neglect. This trauma is often compounded by the instability they experience while in foster care, through placement and school changes. Together, these circumstances may lead to poor educational outcomes, most notably low rates of college completion. While about 64% of foster youth graduate high school (compared to 86% statewide), only 3-4% of former foster youth obtain a 4-year college degree. Students in foster care are one of the most vulnerable and underperforming education subgroups in the state, due to instability in home and school placements. SB 307 seeks to reverse this trend by making debt-free college a reality for foster youth in California.

Studies have shown that for foster youth who are able to enroll in higher education, many face barriers such as education costs, reliable housing and living expenses. Alleviating education costs have improved foster youth college attendance and graduation rates.

SB 307 builds upon Governor Newsom’s vision for debt-free college for all students by establishing the Fostering Futures program, within the Middle Class Scholarship (MCS Program.) This bill will allow foster youth enrolled in an associate’s degree or certificate program at a community college or a four-year program at a CSU or UC to have 100% of their unmet needs covered after other aid is applied.

After passing the Senate Education Committee, SB 307 is headed to the Senate Human Services Committee.