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2017 June 13 - 03:08 pm

Kansas Law Gives Free Tuition to Foster Children

Colleges Must Pay Costs Without State Help

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas law waives tuition at state universities and colleges for foster kids, but requires the schools to cover the entire cost without state aid.

The Kansas Foster Child Education Assistance Act passed in 2006 waives tuition and fees at state universities, tech schools, community colleges and Washburn University for students who were in foster care. Theresa Freed, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said that the potential future market for the law includes the more than 7,000 children of all ages who were under foster care as of March, the Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/2rjYpKy ) reported.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Jasmine Martin, who grew up in foster care and will soon start summer classes at the University of Kansas. “I had thought there was no way to go to college.”

But the state requires schools to pay for those students without providing any money for that purpose.

Wichita Area Technical College President Sheree Utash said the school has waived $138,000 for more than 100 foster care students since 2010.

“The foster care students deserve an education, and provide the best that we can for them,” she said. “But for us, the law is a huge liability. By law, we can't just waive the costs — we have to pay for the students’ costs with our scholarship money. And every year, you have no idea how many (former foster care) students you'll get.”

College admissions mentor Jennifer Fry said the law levels the playing field for foster kids, who she said often have slim chances of getting an education otherwise. But when referring to Martin’s story, Fry said it's concerning how little people know about the program.

“I'm horrified, actually,” she said. “As a teacher, I'd never heard of this law. So teachers don't know. Parents and guardians don’t know this exists. And I’m wondering how many other high school teachers and counselors don't know about it either. We could perhaps help a lot more kids like her (Martin).”

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