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State Lawmakers Look To Get Foster Kids Better Support For Higher Education

Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio

State lawmakers are looking at possible legislation in 2015 that would increase the number of foster care youth enrolled in college using a free tuition waiver. 

In 2013, high school graduation rates for foster care children were less than 65% and many of them age-out of the college tuition waiver provided by the state of Texas.

Texas Department of Family Protective Services Commissioner Judge John Specia told a special joint committee of lawmakers at the state capitol that there are a number of obstacles that stand in the way of foster care teens utilizing a program that provides free tuition to state colleges and universities. Specia said trauma from past levels of abuse can stunt these children.

“Oftentimes when a child comes into foster care they are already educationally delayed," Specia said, "they’re not where they should be when they start.”

Specia said some of that can also be attributed to a system that often moves children between homes. The bigger component, he said, has to do with schools working with these kids.

“Our foster youth has expressed to me a lack of college preparation courses through the schools that they are in, as well as a lack of education and career advocacy -- people really advocating for them to go on to higher education,” Specia said.

During the interim period, lawmakers are examining the effective of existing program and whether or not additional legislation is needed.