STEP 4: Paying for college

For many, this is one of the biggest challenges to attending college. The good news is that there are many options to help pay for college. Emancipated foster youth and most former foster youth qualify as independent students, providing them with the maximum benefit of financial aid. For more detailed and specific information on financial aid, visit the sites listed under Financial Aid in the Online Resources section.

How much does college cost?

  • Standard cost of attendance
  • Educational Expense Chart*
  • 2009-2010 Living on-campus (based on median costs)

 

 CommunityCSUUCIndependent College
Fees/Tuition $624** $4,827 $9,285 $30,144
Books/Supplies $1,566 $1,581 $1,500 $1,455
Room/Board $7,800*** $9,633 $12,600 $9,330
Miscellaneous $2,394 $3,535 $3,600 $3,218
TOTAL $12,384 $19,576 $26,985 $45,147

*source: http://www.californiacolleges.edu/finance/how-much-does-college-cost.asp

**Estimate is for 12 units/semester

***Few community colleges have on-campus housing; actual cost varies based upon number of meals included

Applying for Financial Aid

There are 4 basic things students should do to receive money for college:

  1. The student must apply for Federal Financial Aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the school year in which they plan to attend. The FAFSA does need to be updated and submitted each year. We suggest it be completed sometime between January and March 2 of every year.
    The FAFSA is the same form for every student, however there are a few questions that are specific to current or former foster youth. Listed below are some tips for completing the questions in step 3 of the FAFSA which determine if a student will need to provide parental information. The questions are numbered according to our most recent information about the FAFSA and included for convenience. The order of these questions may change on the application, but the information will be the same.
    • At any time since you turned age 13, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care, or were you a dependent or ward of the court?
      • The student should answer "Yes" if he or she had no living parent (biological or adoptive) at any time since he or she turned age 13 or older, even if the student is now adopted.
      • Answer "Yes" if the student was in foster care at any time since she or he turned 13, even if the student is no longer in foster care as of today.
      • Answer "Yes" if the student was a dependent or ward of the court at any time since he or she turned 13, even if the student is no longer a dependent or ward of the court as of today.
      • Note that the financial aid administrator at the student's school may require the student to provide proof that he or she was in foster care or was a dependent/ward of the court.
    • Are you, or were you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
      • Answer "Yes" if the student can provide a copy of a court's decision that as of today he or she is an emancipated minor.
      • Also answer "Yes" if the student can provide a copy of a court's decision that he or she was an emancipated minor immediately before reaching the age of being an adult in his or her state. The court must be located in the student's state of legal residence at the time the court's decision was issued.
      • Answer "No" if the student is still a minor and the court decision is no longer in effect or the court decision was not in effect at the time he or she became an adult.
      • Note that the financial aid administrator at the student's college may require the student to provide proof that he or she was an emancipated minor.
    • Are you or were you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?
      • Answer "Yes" if the student can provide a copy of a court's decision that as of today the student is in legal guardianship.
      • Also answer "Yes" if the student can provide a copy of a court's decision that he or she was in a legal guardianship immediately before reaching the age of being an adult in his or her state. The court must be located in the student's state of legal residence at the time the court's decision was issued.
      • Answer "No" if the student is still a minor and the court decision is no longer in effect or the court decision was not in effect at the time the student became an adult.
  2. File a verified grade point average (GPA) form with the California Student Aid Commission no later than March 2 to receive a Cal Grant (State funds). Some high schools and colleges automatically file their students' verified GPAs with the Commission. Students should check with their school as to whether or not they will file. The student may instead have to complete a Cal Grant GPA Verification Form and have it certified by a school official then mailed as instructed on the form.
  3. Foster youth should complete the Chafee Application form after completing the FAFSA. The Chafee grant is specific to foster youth and can provide up to $5,000 a year in free money. The application takes about 2 minutes to complete.
  4. Follow up with the Financial Aid department to ensure that all financial aid verification forms are submitted at the school of choice.

Financial Aid Eligibility

In general, financial aid eligibility will depend upon various factors.  These include income and assets, the number of people supported by the income, and the number of children in the family who are attending college.

Eligibility also depends on some additional factors. First, there are basic requirements that do not relate to a student’s financial need. To be eligible for most financial aid a student must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen [see the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for more detail].
  • Be registered with Selective Service (if required).
  • Be working toward a degree, certificate or eligible goal (such as transfer).
  • Not owe a refund on a federal grant or be in default on a federal educational loan.
  • Be a high school graduate or have the equivalent of a high school diploma (like a GED), or take a special test to show you have the ability to benefit from college education.
  • Not have been convicted of drug possession or sales in the recent past (see the FAFSA for more detail or contact the education services advocate).

The aid that may be offered depends on when students apply, when a student responds to requests from the Financial Aid Office, and any types of special eligibility the student may meet, like being a former foster youth. To continue receiving financial aid, students will have to make progress towards their educational objectives while they are in college.

How Financial Need is Established

Financial need is based on the information provided on the FAFSA and determines how much “expected family contribution (EFC)” will be made to the cost of attending college for youth. Typically, emancipated foster youth and most former foster youth will automatically qualify as an independent student so their EFC will be zero and only their income will be considered in determining financial need. This will allow for the most financial aid benefit to be awarded up to the Cost of Attendance.  Cost of Attendance is the total cost to attend a particular school and includes tuition, fees, books and supplies, transportation and room and board.  Basically, financial need is calculated as follows:

Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Need

Types of Financial Aid Available

  • Grants and Scholarships (do not need to be repaid)
  • Work Study (earn money for school while working on campus)
  • Loans (need to be repaid and you may need to qualify)

By completing the FAFSA students are eligible to receive the following financial aid. However, the amount each student will actually receive will depend on his or her cost to attend the school of choice, financial need, status as a full-time or part-time student, and his or her plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

Grants

Federal Pell Grant

The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2009-10 award year  is $5,350. For the 2010-11 award year the maximum award is $5,550.

Chafee Grant

This is a specific grant for emancipated and former foster youth.  Students who qualify may receive up to $5,000 a year for career and technical training or college.  For more information please refer to http://www.chafee.csac.ca.gov

Cal Grants

Financial aid given to low income individuals and may be applied toward college and vocational schools. Depending on the Cal Grant you receive, a student could receive up to $9,700 a year to pay for college expenses. There are various types of Cal Grants available. For a detailed description please refer to http://www.csac.ca.gov/.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)  is free money for undergraduates with exceptional financial need and pays between $100 and $4,000 a year.

The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)  An Academic Competitiveness Grant provides $750 for the first year of study and $1,300 for the second year.

Institutional Grants

Colleges provide institutional grants to help make up the difference between college costs and what a family can be expected to contribute through income, savings, loans, and student earnings. Amounts will vary.

State University Grant (SUG)

Free money awarded based on financial need to cover at least the amount of the State University fee to eligible students who apply for financial aid by March 2, and who have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $800 or less, and who are not receiving a Cal Grant or other award designated to cover fees.

Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Grant

Free money to economically and educationally disadvantaged undergraduates. Recipients must be California residents who are admitted to a CSU campus through the Educational Opportunity Program. EOP students may receive a grant, based on need, of up to $2,000 per year.

Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver Application (Community College only)

The Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver permits enrollment fees to be waived for eligible California residents attending a community college.

Scholarships

Scholarships are another form of free financial aid to help pay for college.  Most scholarships are awarded upon the basis of academic achievement and some are offered for those who demonstrate financial need. Colleges, universities, and many public and private companies and organizations offer scholarships. 

Beware of scholarship search scams! You should never pay anyone who promises to help you find scholarship opportunities. The scholarship search services they offer are usually found for free from educational websites and officials. For more information visit www.ftc.gov/scholarshipscams

Work-study

Work-study allows the student to earn money to pay for their education through part-time jobs usually on school campus.

Loans

Loans, which must be repaid, are available from a variety of programs. For most youth attending community college this is usually not needed or recommended. We encourage youth to apply for scholarships and other grants to help pay all college costs. It is important to fully understand these loans and how they work. Students will want to work with their school and their education advocate closely if they are considering loans.

  • Subsidized Stafford Loans – available to students who meet financial requirements and are attending school at least part time. With these loans, the government pays the interest from the time the student receives the loan money until up to six months after he or she leaves school.
  • Unsubsidized Stafford Loans - available to any student regardless of financial need, but the student pays the interest while in school, and after leaving college.
  • PLUS Loans – available to the parents of students attending college.
  • Perkins Loans – administered by colleges and are for students with exceptional financial need.

Sample Financial Aid Award – Attending a California State University

Figures are approximate and based on maximum amounts

Total Cost of Attendance (Tuition, fees, housing) $20,000
Expected Family Contribution $0
Financial Need $20,000
Financial Aid Awards
Federal Pell Grant $5,000
Federal SEOG $2,000
Cal Grant $4,000
Chafee Grant $5,000
Federal Work Study $3,000
Scholarships $1,000
  $20,000

Grades and Financial Aid

After starting to receive financial aid a student must maintain a certain grade point average to keep receiving financial aid in future semesters.  If a student falls below this grade point average, they may be put on academic probation and not receive financial aid until their grades have improved.