Educational Supports for Youth in Foster Care - Tennessee

Date: April 2020

Support for Completing High School

Citation: IL Proc. Man.

Life skills instruction may include assistance with developing an appropriate education plan, completing secondary education, and accessing resources for postsecondary or vocational programs.

Planning for Postsecondary Education

Citation: IL Proc. Man.

It is recommended that youth and young adults receive assistance from supportive adults in preparation for submitting applications for Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) and/or the State-funded scholarship. Supportive adults include, but are not limited to, resource parents, birth parents, relatives, mentors, teachers, and Department of Children's Services (DCS) staff. Caseworkers or other designated staff must provide this assistance for youth and young adults in State custody or receiving extension-of-foster-care-services status. Assistance must be rendered to help youth and young adults with the following:

  • Receiving recommendations regarding the youth's postsecondary educational options from high school guidance counselors, when applicable, to ensure the appropriateness and feasibility of program choices
  • Obtaining information about specific postsecondary educational institutions that the youth may be interested in and review such information with the youth to facilitate an informed decision
  • Visiting the postsecondary programs in advance of enrollment
  • Applying for Federal and State financial aid awards by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually
  • Identifying and applying for privately endowed grants and scholarships

Eligibility Requirements

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-4-933; DCS Admin. Pol. & Proc. Ch. 16A, § 16.53; IL Proc. Man

To be eligible for a Tennessee HOPE foster child tuition grant, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Not be ineligible for the grant under § 49-4-904
  • Meet the eligibility requirements of § 49-4-905
  • Meet the applicable academic requirements for a Tennessee HOPE scholarship or Tennessee HOPE access grant that apply to the method by which the student completed high school
  • Apply for a Tennessee HOPE foster child tuition grant and file a FAFSA
  • Be admitted to and enroll in an eligible postsecondary institution

This section shall apply to a student to whom any of the following are true:

  • Was in State custody for at least 1 year after reaching age 14
  • Was in State custody for at least 1 year after reaching age 14 and was placed for adoption by DCF or one of its adoption contract agencies, and the adoption was finalized
  • Was in State custody for at least 1 year and was placed in permanent guardianship by the department after reaching age 14

The student shall present the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation with official certification from the department that the student meets the eligibility requirements listed above for the tuition grant.

In policy: The following persons may be eligible for ETVs:

  • Young adults who emancipated to adulthood directly from State custody at or after age 18
  • Youth age 16 or older in DCS custody
  • Youth age 16 or older who exit DCS custody through adoption or subsidized permanent guardianship
  • Young adults adjudicated delinquent (except for youth housed in secured facilities upon reaching age 18)

To maintain eligibility for ETVs, the young adult must meet the following requirements:

  • Maintain enrollment in an eligible postsecondary program
  • Maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 2.0 or higher per semester

Youth and young adults eligible for ETVs also are eligible for the Bright Futures scholarship, with the exception that applicants for the Bright Futures scholarship may have personal assets of no more than $10,000. The accessibility of certain services rendered directly by DCS varies based on the availability of funding. In such cases, similar services may need to be explored through other available resources. However, ETVs and the Bright Futures scholarship cannot be provided during the same term. The award may be provided to otherwise-eligible applicants starting after age 21 and extended to their 24th birthday.

From the IL Procedures Manual: All youth or young adults who meet eligibility criteria outlined above must complete an application and complete and sign at least one copy of the form authorizing the release of personal information. In addition, the following must be included with the initial application:

  • The acceptance letter from the postsecondary educational or vocational training program
  • A copy of the applicant's high school or general educational development diploma
  • A copy of the applicant's American College Test or Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, if applying to a program that requires them
  • A copy of the FAFSA Student Aid Report applicable to the financial aid year

Returning students must include the following with each application:

  • A copy of the FAFSA Student Aid Report applicable to the financial aid year or other verification of financial aid application
  • The grade or progress report for the previous semester or term

Financial Supports for Postsecondary Programs

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-4-933; DCS Admin. Pol. & Proc. Tit. 16A, § 16.53

The student shall be eligible for the Tennessee HOPE foster child tuition grant as follows:

  • For entrance to an eligible postsecondary institution for a period of no more than 4 years after the date of graduation from high school or its equivalent
  • For a period of 6 years after admittance to an eligible postsecondary institution, if satisfactory progress is achieved and maintained

The Tennessee HOPE foster child tuition grant shall be the cost of attendance less any gift aid, with the total HOPE foster child tuition grant amount not to exceed the cost of tuition and mandatory fees at the eligible postsecondary institution attended. Additionally, at an eligible independent postsecondary institution, the Tennessee HOPE foster child tuition grant shall not exceed the statewide average public tuition and mandatory fee rate for the type of institution, 2-year or 4-year, attended.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to do either of the following:

  • Guarantee acceptance by or entrance into any eligible postsecondary institution for youth in, or formerly in, the custody of the State
  • Limit the participation of a youth in, or formerly in, the custody of the State in any other program of financial assistance for postsecondary education

In policy: Young adults ages 18 to 21 receiving extension of foster care services may receive an ETV and an independent-living allowance to assist with expenses related to independent living and postsecondary education and training opportunities. ETVs are only utilized to fund expenses for eligible postsecondary institutions. The DCS scholarship coordinator can be contacted to verify the eligibility of a chosen program. The total annual allocation of ETVs per youth/young adult cannot exceed $5,000.

ETVs may be granted to eligible youth and young adults up to their 21st birthday. Young adults who received ETVs before achieving their 21st birthday may continue receiving ETV assistance up to their 23rd birthday, if they are making satisfactory progress in their educational or training program at age 21.

The Bright Futures scholarship is administered by the DCS Office of Interdependent Living that utilizes DCS funds to promote access to higher education and increase opportunities to defray the high cost of postsecondary education to eligible youth. This scholarship can only be used to attend a Tennessee State educational institution. Priority is given to eligible youth who do not meet criteria for DCS' Chafee ETV program.