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New proposed bill could help foster teens afford college

KRDO

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A bill making it's way through the State House could provide free college tuition for teens in foster care.

SB22-008, or Senate House Bill 8, requires all public higher education institutions in Colorado to waive undergraduate tuition and fees for Colorado resident students who have been in foster care.

The bill would, more specifically, apply to foster care children who were placed in foster care in Colorado before their 13th birthday, placed in non-kinship care after their 13th birthday, or adjudicated neglected or dependent at any time. Currently, the requirement applies to age 16.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) within the Department of Higher Education (DHE) would cover half the cost of providing financial assistance to foster children, with institutions of higher education covering the other half from financial aid allotments.

To qualify for assistance, a student would need to complete the free application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and an application for the Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) grant. Students would also need to work towards a bachelor’s, postgraduate, associate’s degree, a certificate, and remain in satisfactory academic standing.

Jamie Kopinski, a foster care mom in Colorado Springs, says this would help families like hers.

“I have two biological children, one is 19, one is 17," says Kopinskiy. "I have an unofficially adopted kid who is 18, and I have a sibling group of three right now."

As her kids approach college years and make the difficult decisions of where to go and what to study, she says SB22-008 would be a weight off the family's shoulders if passed.

“The kids that I’ve had in my home are awesome. They’re brilliant, and they’re so driven," says Kopinski. "So anything that we can do to just help them get on the right path and take away some of the stress related to going to college, which this bill seems to do, would be extremely helpful for them.”

Sarah Bailey with Kids Crossing, a foster care agency in El Paso County, says this bill would broaden the amount of foster teen who could attend college. She notes that not every teen qualifies under current rules, because not every teen was actively in the foster care system at the age of 16.

“It’ll allow them to have just a wide variety of opportunities, whether it’s going to learn a trade or it’s going to become a doctor or a lawyer or learn to cut hair," says Bailey. "Whatever that’s gonna look like and however they’re gonna do it, it opens up the possibilities for them. It allows them to dream a little bigger.”

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Natalie Haddad

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