H. Post-Secondary Opportunities

Special Issue: During hearings involving middle and high school students in foster care, courts may inquire about the youth’s post-secondary education goals. If the youth or caregiver is present at the hearing, a court may encourage options, including vocational and technical training, certificate programs, and two and four-year higher education opportunities.

1. Tuition and Fee Waiver

A student is exempt from the payment of tuition and fees, including tuition and fees charged by an institution of higher education for a dual credit course or other course for which a high school student may earn joint high school and college credit, if the student:

•   Was in the conservatorship of DFPS:

◦   on the day preceding the student’s on his or her 18th birthday; or

◦   on or after the student’s 14th birthday, if the student was also eligible for adoption on or after that day; or

◦   on the day the student graduated from high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma; or

◦   on the day preceding the date the student is adopted or PMC is awarded to a person other than a parent, if that date is on or after September 1, 2009; or

◦   during an academic term in which the student was enrolled in a dual credit course or other course for which a high school student may earn joint high school and college credit; and

•   Enrolls in an institution of higher education as an undergraduate student or in a dual credit course or other course for which a high school student may earn joint high school and college credit not later than the student's 25th birthday. Tex. Educ. Code § 54.366(a).

Notwithstanding Tex. Educ. Code Ann § 54.366(a)(1), a child who exits the conservatorship of DFPS and is returned to the child’s parent, including a parent whose parental rights were previously terminated, may be exempt from the payment of tuition and fees if DFPS determines that the child is eligible under department rule. Tex. Educ. Tex. Educ. Code § 54.366(c).Youth age 14 or older in PMC or youth age 16 or older in TMC who subsequently exit conservatorship to the legal responsibility of a parent are eligible for the tuition and fee waiver. 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 700.1630(a). If after exiting the foster care system the youth returns to DFPS conservatorship, the youth’s eligibility will be based on their current foster care circumstances. 40 Tex. Admin. Code § 700.1630(b). Tex. Fam. Code § 54.366(c).

TEA and the THECB shall develop outreach programs to ensure that students in the conservatorship of DFPS and in grades 9-12 are aware of the availability of the exemption from the payment of tuition and fees provided by Tex. Educ. Code § 54.366. Tex. Educ. Code § 54.366(b).

TEA must also develop procedures to ensure that a student in substitute care who is in grade 11 or 12 be provided information regarding tuition and fee exemptions under Tex. Educ. Code § 54.366 for dual-credit or other courses provided by a public institution of higher education for which a high school student may earn joint high school and college credit. Tex. Educ. Code § 25.007(b)(12).

Note, Tex. Educ. Code § 54.2001(g) specifically states the conditional receipt of the exemptions and waivers does not apply to students who receive the exemption in accordance with Tex. Educ. Code § 54.366. Tex. Educ. Code § 54.2001(g)(3).

Special Issue: To encourage postsecondary success, it is important for the court, attorneys ad litem, schools, caseworkers, and others to explain the tuition and fee waiver and other benefits to assist youth with the transition out of foster care. A great resource for youth in care is the DFPS Texas Youth Connection, available online at: https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/txyouth/.

2. Education Training Voucher (ETV) and Other Programs

Under the John H. Chaffee Foster Care Independence Program, eligible youth are entitled to up to $5,000 a year to cover education-related expenses from the federal ETV program.[38] 42 U.S.C. § 677. For more details about the DFPS Preparation for Adult Living services and other higher education resources, please see DFPS Overview of Higher Education Information/Resources for Current and Former Foster Youth [39] and Transitional Living Services Overview.[40]

3. Liaisons at the THECB and Institutions of Higher Education

Each institution of higher education, [as defined by Tex. Educ. Code § 61.003] shall designate at least one employee of the institution to act as a liaison officer for current and incoming students at the institution who were formerly in the conservatorship of DFPS. The liaison officer shall provide to those students information regarding support services and other resources available to the students at the institution and any other relevant information to assist the students. Tex. Educ. Code § 51.9356(b).

The THECB shall designate at least one employee of the board to act as a liaison officer for current and incoming students at institutions of higher education who were formerly in the conservatorship of DFPS. The liaison officer shall assist in coordinating college readiness and student success efforts relating to those students. Tex. Educ. Code § 61.0908.

Special Issue: Contact information for designated liaisons at Texas institutions of higher education is available online at: http://www.collegeforalltexans.com/apps/financialaid/tofa2.cfm?ID=429.