(The Center Square) – Foster children and students who are identified as homeless will be able to attend Georgia public universities and technical colleges for free, starting July 1.
Senate Bill 107 was part of a legislation package signed Monday by Gov. Brian Kemp aimed at improving the state's foster care system.
"Today, I am proud to sign legislation that will make it easier and more affordable to adopt children in the Peach State, allow grant tuition and fee waivers for eligible foster and adopted students at Georgia's postsecondary institutions, and remove procedural hurdles for adoptive parents," Kemp said.
Eligible students under the measure can take courses at University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia schools tuition-free for 10 years or until they obtain a bachelor's degree. All of their required fees, including rooming and board fees, also will be waived at Technical College System of Georgia schools, and the student also can obtain a GED at the technical schools for free.
Students must apply for federal student aid and use available federal aid before any remaining fees or tuition will be waived. Homeless noncitizens and those convicted of or serving time for a crime are not eligible for the waiver under SB 107.
There are more than 12,000 foster children in Georgia, according to a Feb. 1 report by Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services.
"Adoptive and foster children face unique challenges in their lives, so it's our duty to knock down barriers they face and to create a path to success in education and in life," said Corey Burres, vice president of communications for the Georgia Center for Opportunity. "This bill creates opportunities that expand educational access and opportunity. That is something that we should expect from all educational initiatives and legislation."
An undergraduate education at a University System of Georgia school can cost between more than $6,000 to $2,000. First-year college students in Georgia can also apply for the state's HOPE or the Zell Miller scholarships. The Zell Miller scholarship covers 100% of tuition, and HOPE covers around 75% of tuition. The Georgia Lottery Corporation funds the scholarships through lottery revenue.
A Technical College System of Georgia education costs about $3,200, including tuition and fees. According to the system's website, students who receive a HOPE Grant pay about $1,200 per year for school.