Saint Paul, MN – The Fostering Independence Grant (FIG) is a new financial aid program that helps Minnesotans who were in foster care attend higher education by breaking down financial barriers. The grant is the first of its kind for Minnesota, with the goal of paying the full cost of attendance for students including tuition, fees, and living expenses such as housing and transportation. In its first semester of implementation, the grant was awarded to 389 students.
“Whether you are pursuing a two-year degree, four-year degree, a credential, or a certificate, college is for everyone,” OHE Commissioner Dennis Olson said. “My agency is working every day to ensure historically excluded populations have the resources necessary to attend higher education and achieve their dreams. We know that financial barriers are especially difficult for those who were in the foster care system and this grant removes that roadblock, making college a real possibility. I am thrilled to see so many students benefit from this investment and know that as we raise awareness of the grant, even more Minnesotans will take advantage of this opportunity.”
Fostering Independence Grants are made possible through an ongoing $3.8 million investment by Governor Walz and the Minnesota Legislature during the 2021 session. Of the 389 students awarded the grant in fall 2022:
According to the data, 157 of the grant recipients attended a college in the metro, while 232 attended a college located in Greater Minnesota.
Fostering Independence Grants are available to students attending a participating Minnesota public, private, or tribal college (see a list of all participating higher education institutions online), who are aged 27 or younger, and have been in the Minnesota foster care system at any point after their thirteenth birthday. Full eligibility requirements can be found on the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) website.
Created as a “last dollar” financial aid program, FIG funds cover the remaining cost of attendance after all other applicable state and federal grants are applied. For fall 2022, the average FIG award was $5,332. To apply, students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form or Minnesota Dream Act application. The 2023-2024 FAFSA is open for students to complete and the 2023-2024 participating institutions will be published by April 1st.
To ensure success for implementation, OHE partnered with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) on outreach to foster students. If a person self-identified as someone who has been in the foster care system, OHE and DHS confirmed their eligibility based on foster care records and then proactively notified the schools listed on the student’s FAFSA or DREAM Act form, ensuring the school could factor FIG into the student’s financial aid package. For those who self-identified and were eligible, but did not indicate they planned to attend a participating Minnesota college, OHE reached out to let the student know about the grant and provided the list of participating schools, allowing each student to make an informed decision.