Fact Sheet: Fostering Independence Through Education Waiver

Juvenile Law Center,

On June 28th, Pennsylvania passed a law, which will create the Fostering Independence Through Education Waiver. Act 16 of 2019 amended the school code to create a state tuition waiver. The relevant sections can now be found at 24 P.S. 26-2601-K et. seq. This will create a tuition and fee waiver for youth who were in foster care.

Key provisions include:

  • Creates a tuition and fee waiver for undergraduate degrees at colleges and universities in Pennsylvania for youth in foster care to reduce financial barriers.

  • Creates points-of-contact at covered institutions to help eligible student identify and apply for financial aid and scholarships, gather verification documents, and access campus and community resources and support services.

  • Provides outreach to students to ensure that eligible students know about the waiver and all students supports, and apply for all available financial aid.

  • Data collection and reporting by institutions and government agencies to improve retention and the success of students.

  • The program will begin in the Fall semester of 2020.

  • The waiver can be used for up to five years until a young adult reaches age 26.



What is the Fostering Independence Through Education Tuition Waiver Program?
The Fostering Independence Through Education Tuition Waiver is a program that requires certain Pennsylvania colleges and universities to waive, or not charge students a portion of their tuition and mandatory fees for youth who are or have been in foster care.

The Program also requires that eligible schools designate Points of Contact that will assist eligible young people in accessing the waiver, other financial resources, and resources and supports on campus and in the community. 

How does the tuition waiver work?
The tuition wavier "waives" or "erases" any amount of tuition and mandatory fees that are left after the school counts the federal and state aid, and scholarships an eligible student receives.

What schools are covered by the tuition waiver?
Pennsylvania community colleges, universities, and technical schools that are approved by the United States Department of Education for federal Title IV financial aid are covered by the waiver. A full list of Title IV approved schools is available online, but the tuition waiver can only be used at schools in Pennsylvania.

Do students have to be eligible and apply for the Chafee Education and Training Grant in order to qualify for the tuition waiver?
Yes, students have to be eligible for the Chafee Education and Training Grant program and apply for the grant in order to be eligible for the tuition waiver.

Do students have to apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant in order to qualify for the tuition waiver?
Not all students will be required to apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant because the tuition waiver can be used at many schools and by many students that do not qualify for the Pennsylvania State Grant. However, if students are eligible for the State Grant, they will be notified by their schools that they are required to apply for the grant to qualify for the tuition waiver.

What are the responsibilities of the college and university Point of Contacts?
The college and university point of contacts provide the following services to students who are eligible for the tuition waiver:

  • Assist students in obtaining verification from the courts, county child welfare agency, or the Department of Human Services regarding their eligibility for the tuition waiver.

  • Assist students with accessing Federal and State financial aid resources and identify further scholarship and grant opportunities that students may be eligible for.

  • Serve as students primary contact on campus on a variety of matters.

  • Provide information and referrals for on-campus support services and resources, including admissions, housing, financial aid, health, mental health, tutoring, career, academic advising and other services.

  • Provide information and referrals for off-campus support services, including transitional housing, medical insurance and services.

When should students reach out and contact the POC for schools they are interested in?
Students should identify and contact the Point of Contact at all the schools they are interested in attending. The Point of Contact can assist them in completing their admissions applications and receiving financial assistance.

How can a student find a school's Point of Contact? 
The Point of Contact information can be found on the school's website. There are is also a master list of Points of Contact, but this may not include every Pennsylvania school at this time. 

When is the Fostering Independence Through Education tuition waiver available?
The tuition waiver will be available starting in Fall 2020.

Does the tuition waiver cover room and board?
No, the tuition waiver does not cover room and board. The tuition waiver only applies to tuition and mandatory fees.

How do students apply for the tuition waiver?
Students apply for the tuition waiver by completing the following steps:

How many years can students use the tuition waiver?
Students can use the tuition waiver for five years—but this does not have to be consecutively.

Can the tuition waiver help students for student debt they have incurred in Pennsylvania schools in the past?
No, the tuition waiver will only be applied to tuition and fees charged to students starting in Fall 2020.  

Does the tuition waiver ever need to be repaid? 
No, while students may lose eligibility for the tuition waiver in future semesters, it will not need to be repaid.