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How to Cover College Expenses for Your Child Adopted from Foster Care

Parents who adopt older children from foster care often do not have as many years to save for the child’s college education. The good news is that there are programs in place that may help these youth pay for education.

Federal Programs

Since July 2009, children who were adopted from foster care at age 13 or older are considered on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be an independent student, which means they don’t have to count family income and are more likely to qualify for financial aid. 

Youth who are adopted from the foster care system at age 16 or older may be able to access Education and Training Voucher (ETV) assistance, which provides up to $5,000 per year for youth who are in college or at an accredited vocational or technical training program.  These programs are administered at the state level using federal funds. To find information about this program in your state, visit

Additional Programs

The following states have specific programs to support children adopted from foster care. College tuition waiver programs are the most supportive, but some states also have scholarship programs. Most of the programs described below are also for youth who are still in foster care at high school completion.

In addition, some schools offer special scholarships for children who were adopted, and parents or youth should contact schools directly to ask about options. For example, the Dr. Gregory Keck Scholarship in Social Work at the University of Akron offers a preference to students who had been in foster care or were adopted.

Tuition Waiver

Connecticut The Department of Children and Families will provide financial assistance for any child adopted from DCF foster care after December 31, 2004 toward the cost of any post-high school degree or accredited program that the adopted child is accepted into, provided the child attends full time. The waiver can be up to the annual cost of the University of Connecticut, including tuition, fees, and room and board. For more information contact Adam Liebowitz (860-550-6461) in the DCF Subsidy Unit. 


Children who exit foster care by themselves at age 18, are in the custody of a relative at age 18, or are adopted from the Department of Children and Families after May 5, 1997 are eligible for Florida’s tuition wavier program.  This program is valid at Florida’s public universities, public community colleges and public vocational schools until the child is age 28. The students are exempt from paying tuition and fees, including lab fees. No money changes hands; eligible students are simply not charged these fees. For further information contact the local post-adoption services counselor, contact information is at

Youth may also be eligible for the Road to Independence if they were adopted at age 16 or 17 and are enrolled in a post secondary school.  Frequently Asked Question about the program can be found on pages 9-13 on this web page,


Yes. Youth are eligible for tuition waivers at public Kentucky colleges and universities if they are:

  • Over age 18 and the family receives state-funded adoption assistance under KRS 199.555; or
  • Is currently placed in foster care by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) or the Department for Juvenile Justice (DJJ); or
  • Is in an Independent Living Program; or

Was in the custody of CHFS or DJJ before being adopted;

  • Was in the custody of CHFS or DJJ on his or her 18th birthday
  • Children who were adopted from Kentucky but who no longer reside in Kentucky are eligible for the tuition waiver, but must pay the difference between the in-state tuition rates and out-of-state rates.

The student must also meet all entrance requirements for the post secondary institution and must maintain academic eligibility (meaning he or she maintains at least a 2.0 grade point average). For more information, read


Any youth who was in the custody of the DHS and received adoption assistance at the time that she graduated from high school or successfully completed a general educational development (GED) examination or its equivalent may attend any state post-secondary educational institution free of tuition charges.


Maryland offers the Maryland Waiver, which allows foster youth and former foster youth of Maryland DHR, who meet certain criteria to attend college in Maryland tuition-free. To be eligible, adopted youth must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be a Maryland resident
  • Be adopted after their 13th birthday, or adopted with a sibling who was adopted after their 13th birthday.
  • Attend a State college in Maryland
  • Have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The waiver is good for five years after the youth first enrolls in college. The waiver does not pay for a training program, nor does it cover the cost of books and or transportation. See Maryland Policy Directive SSA #13-12 for full information on the tuition waiver program as well as Maryland's ETV program.


Any child adopted through DCF since 2000 by a resident of Massachusetts or an employee of the Commonwealth will have 100% of the tuition for state-supported undergraduate courses waived until the adopted youth reaches his or her 25th birthday. This benefit applies to all state colleges and universities, as well as community colleges.

In 2008, the legislature expanded the waiver to include fees as well as tuition, although the fee waiver is subject to available funding. The waiver is also available to any child who was in DCF care under a Care and Protection petition for 12 consecutive months, and was neither adopted nor returned home (including children who were placed in guardianships).

Eligible youth (or a parent if the youth is under 18) can request a waiver by writing to the address below. Youth must include a copy of the their amended birth certificate.

Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
Director of Adoption Support Services
Leo Farley
600 Washinton Street 6th floor
Boston, MA 02111


Children who were the subject of an adoption assistance agreement qualify for tuition and fees waiver if the youth attends a state-supported and funded college or university in Texas. Youth who age out of foster care also qualify for the tuition and fee waiver program. The school’s financial aid office can provide youth with additional information. For more information, parents should contact a DFPS regional adoption assistance specialist (


Virginia offers a Tuition Grant Program that covers tuition and fees at any Virginia community college for high school graduates or students who have a general education development (GED) certificate who were in foster care in the custody of a social services agency or were considered a special needs adoption at the time of graduation or GED completion.


States With Other College Programs


Youth who are receiving adoption assistance and who have completed high school may apply to DCFS for a four-year scholarship. For more information, parents should contact the post-adoption worker in the Region where they receive adoption assistance. There are only 48 scholarships awarded annually and these are for both youth in foster care and adoption.


Michigan offers the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), which helps pay college tuition and mandatory fees for students from low-income families.  Eligibility includes students who: (1) are identified by DHS as Medicaid eligible; (2) apply before graduation from high school or receiving a GED; and (3) are under age 20 at the time of graduation or GED completion.  Families should call 888-4GRANTS (888-447-2687) for more information.  The TIP brochure is on the web at

New Jersey

New Jersey offers a College Scholarship program for foster and adopted youth. Adopted children over the age of 12 are eligible. The program is managed by Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS), 800-222-0047 (ask for the scholarship department), email at, or on the web at

Oklahoma If students are enrolled in Oklahoma Higher Education Access Program (OHLAP) during the 8th, 9th or 10th grade year of their education, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and meet behavioral requirements, tuition expenses are paid for at any public Oklahoma state college or university. OHLAP has a family income component, but this is waived for foster youth. Once a youth is enrolled in the program, she is eligible even if she is adopted and the adoptive family has a higher income.




North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
970 Raymond Avenue, Suite 106
St. Paul, MN 55114
phone: 651-644-3036
fax: 651-644-9848