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The Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act (FAFSA)

The Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act (FAFSA) became law as an amendment to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (Public Law 110-84). The FAFSA provision will make it possible for teens in foster care to be adopted without losing access to college financial aid. Under this new law, youth who are adopted from foster care at any point after their 13th birthday will not have to include their parents’ income in the calculations for determining their need for financial aid; such a youth will be considered an “independent student” for the purpose of determining their financial need.

The FAFSA provision will take effect in July 2009, to apply for the 2009-2010 school year. The provision will apply to youth even if they were adopted before the new law was passed. Voice for Adoption worked closely with Senator Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) and Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) offices on this important legislation.

COLEMAN, LANDRIEU COMMEND SENATE FOR PASSING CRITICAL HIGHER EDUCATION AMENDMENT:
Bipartisan Measure Encourages Adoption by Not Forcing Teens to Choose Between Family and Financial Aid

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) commended the Senate for passing the Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act as part of the Higher Education Access Act of 2007. This amendment is aimed at encouraging teenage adoptions by not forcing a teenager to choose between a loving family and financial aid for college. The provision corrects current law, which allows youth who “age out” of the foster care system to qualify for virtually all loans and grants, while essentially penalizing those who are adopted. Specifically, the Coleman-Landrieu measure would amend the definition of “independent student” as defined in current law to include foster care youth who are adopted after their tenth birthday. This will allow for a student’s financial aid eligibility to be determined solely by the student’s ability to pay, regardless of his or her adoptive family’s income level. This recognizes that families who adopt teenagers and pre-teens may have not been able to plan a college savings account for them.

“Education and a loving family are two key components of a child’s mental and emotional development. No child should have to choose between the two,” Sen. Coleman said. “Under current law, adopted teenagers lose out on some or all college financial aid for which they would otherwise have been eligible, depending on his or her adopted parents’ financial situation. I applaud the Senate for passing our amendment to alleviate this discrepancy and encourage teen and pre-teen adoption.”

“It is unacceptable for students to receive less financial aid merely because they were adopted,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Restricting the financial aid opportunities of adopted teens unfairly penalizes them simply for seeking the love and stability that only a family can offer. This amendment corrects such unwise law by allowing adopted children to receive the financial help they need to attend college and realize their full potential.”

“Older youth in foster care currently face the painful choice between being adopted and being able to afford to go to college,” said Alicia Groh, Executive Director of Voice for Adoption. “Thanks to the leadership of Senator Coleman and Senator Landrieu, this bill will eliminate this barrier to adoption, making it possible for children who are waiting to be adopted to achieve their dream of having a permanent family without sacrificing their dream of attending college.”

Currently, there are 523,000 children in foster care, with about half of them over the age of 10. Of students who have “aged out” of foster care – as opposed to being adopted – studies have shown that within three years:

Only 54% had earned their high school diploma
Only 14% had graduated from a four-year college
Between 25-44% had experienced homelessness.

Conversely, statistics consistently show that students who are adopted out of the foster system are more likely to attend college, have stable lives and have a permanent family.

“Asking a child to sacrifice a good home for an education is unacceptable,” Coleman concluded. “I am pleased this bill makes great strides in rectifying the current situation.”

The Higher Education Access Act of 2007, which passed the Senate with Coleman’s support by a vote of 78-18 on July 20, will increase college access and affordability by boosting student aid by $17.4 billion and increasing the maximum annual Pell Grant, the nation’s main aid program for low-income students, from $4,300 to $5,400 a year by 2012.

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