On January 29 and 30, more than 100 student activists traveled to Albany from every corner of the state. Why? Because their ability to get a college degree might be in jeopardy.
For each of the previous three budget years, the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA) made a powerful case to state leaders that the state had a moral responsibility to not only fund college for youth in foster care but to provide additional supports that they might lack without a stable family situation. And each year, the state responded, increasing funding from $1.5 million when the Foster Youth College Success Initiative was first adopted to $4.5 million last year.
This year, though, the governor’s proposed budget included only $1.5 million. Under that funding, not only would it be impossible to expand the program to young men and women matriculating this fall, but hundreds of students already in the program would lose their funding.
“College is the key to whatever you want to do in life,” said Ericka Francois, one of the advocates who will graduate from LaGuardia Community College this spring and plans to get a bachelor’s through CUNY. “Every youth in care deserves a chance to succeed in college.”
That was the message the youth advocates took to the Capitol, where they met with elected officials and their staff from both sides of the aisle. New York State’s precarious budget situation will make create a tremendous challenge to get full funding. But it’s absolutely critical.
“For the nearly 2,700 college-age youth in New York’s foster care system and those who have aged out of care, the pursuit of a college education may simply be too complex, expensive and difficult to face alone,” said Jessica Maxwell, who leads the efforts of Children’s Aid as the lead organization of FYSA.
We will continue to hammer home this message. So many young people are counting on it.