Why the Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program Matters

Chafee Education and Training ProgramWhen it comes to financially supporting foster youth in their goal for a college education or job training, the Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program (ETV) is paramount.

Named after the late Sen. John Chafee (R-RI), the ETV was enacted in 2001 as part of the re-authorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act. The goal was to support former foster youth as they strive to become independent adults.

While many state tuition waivers only grant aid to simply pay for college tuition, the ETV grant allows former and current foster children as well as those who were adopted, to pay for college and most costs associated with college, including room and board and books.

New Jersey utilizes ETV in conjunction with its State Tuition Waiver funding through the New Jersey Foster Care (NJFC) Scholars Program.

“The support systems any young person has in their life between the ages of 16 and 23 are so vital to their future success and whether or not they can thrive and grow into responsible and independent adults,” said Millicent Barry, Foster and Adoptive Family Services’ (FAFS) Director of Scholarship Programs. “When the only support some students have is themselves, post-secondary education can be overwhelming, stressful and all-around utterly unattainable. We are so proud to partner with DCF to offer the NJFC Scholars Program to NJ’s current and former foster and adoptive youth, the majority of whom are without that vital support system.

“Together, we help to ease some of the burden and financial stress of college so that these young adults can flourish, earn a college degree, step out from underneath the shadow of foster care statistics and transition into a productive and self-sufficient adulthood,” Barry continued.

How much does the Chafee Education and Training Program offer?

The law authorizes up to $60 million for payment to states for educational and training vouchers.
However, the amount actually dispersed by the federal government is considerably less. In 2012, the Chafee Education and Training Vouchers Program doled out $37.9 million throughout the country. In 2005, that number was $46 million.

The money is distributed out to states by population, with states matching 20 percent or more. California received the most federal funds at about $6.3 million in 2012. While, on the other end of the spectrum, New Hampshire received the least at about $91,000. To see what funding was distributed in your state, click here.

New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families received $751,313 in 2012. In 2011, that number was $821,504. Since the program’s inception, New Jersey has received $9.3 million dispersed between the Division of Public Welfare and the Department of Children and Families.

What can the money from the ETV Program be used for?

Unlike certain state tuition waiver programs where funds can only be used strictly for tuition, the money from the ETV Program is not nearly as restrictive.

Money from the ETV Program can be used for tuition, balances due at school, room and board, books and supplies, meal cards, transportation, child care costs and special equipment and computers, according to the NJFC Scholars Program. The money can also be used for a laptop or tablet, student loans and study abroad through qualifying schools.

For former foster youth, the difference it makes goes beyond the financial ramifications.

“The NJFC Scholars Program has no clue what opportunities I have taken advantage of with the simple helping hand that was given to me as a foster child,” a NJFC Scholar said. “Attending undergraduate, I was responsible to pay my own tuition and strive to do my best in completing my own dream. Having no parental support, it was hard. I knew that I needed to work hard and be strong, but it was scary thinking I was going to do it alone. The NJFC Scholars Program provided me not only financial support when it came to getting my books, a laptop for school, housing and food vouchers, but it also reminded me that I was not alone. The NJFC Scholars Program became my support, reminding me every day that I was not the only one who wants to achieve my goal.”

Who is eligible for the ETV Program?

According to Foster Care to Success, basic requirements in order to be eligible for the ETV Program nationally include:

• Youth must be in foster care, adopted from foster care after age 16 or aged out of foster care.
• For most states, youth must be aged 18-20; however the age requirement varies by state.
• Youth must have a high school diploma or GED.
• Youth must enroll before their 21st birthday and may continue to receive support until age 23.
• Youth must be accepted into or enrolled in a Title IV, accredited college or vocational/technical training program.
• Young adults participating in the ETV program at age 21 and who are meeting the standards for satisfactory academic progress at their institution.

For the NJFC Scholars Program’s eligibility requirements, please click here.

Who is impacted?

The NJFC Scholars Program had 367 scholars approved for the program during the 2013-2014 academic year, according to Barry. Of those, 252 were approved for ETV or both ETV and NJ’s state tuition waiver. Of the 252, 233 utilized ETV funding.

For former foster children looking to pursue their dreams, this money is vital.
“Without the scholarship, I would not have been able to afford rent, food and other essentials I needed while completing my bachelor’s education,” a NJFC Scholar said.

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