Youth Services Paying for College

Cap and gown

Whether college is a few months away or years down the road, there are ways to help pay for school. Post high school education is important in today’s world.
The goal may be a:

  • 4 year degree
  • 2 year degree
  • Technical Diplomas
  • Apprenticeship
  • Professional license

We encourage youth and the caring adults in their lives to take advantage of the programs and services listed below.

Education and Training Voucher / Department of Children and Families Brighter Star Program

Brighter Star, Wisconsin’s Education and Training Voucher (ETV) Program allows eligible youth/young adult students to receive up to $5,000 per school year in financial aid. The student must be enrolled in (or accepted to) an accredited or pre-accredited post high school program. Funds may be spent on Tier 1 expenses, identified below. If a youth does not have a Tier 1 expense, or once those expenses have already been addressed, Brighter Star funds can be used to pay for other items in Tier 2.

Tier 1 Expenses

  • Tuition
  • Balances due at school
  • On-campus room and board
  • Meal cards
  • Books and school supplies (such as uniforms, tools, equipment)
  • Federal Student Loans
  • Study abroad through qualifying schools

Tier 2 Expenses

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Health insurance premium costs
  • Disability services
  • Dependent childcare expenses to licensed child care providers

How to Access Funds

Brighter Star funds are awarded through the Transition Resource Agencies (TRA). Processes may differ between regions, but eligible youth will likely need to complete an application to receive funds.

  • Review the Brighter Star Funding Guidelines to make sure you can receive the funding. If you need help, there is always someone you can reach out to.

  • Use the Brighter Star Points of Contact to find the assigned agency. TRA staff are available to provide help with completing the application, and to answer questions. 

Campus Contacts for Foster Youth

Campus contacts help former foster youth navigate admission, financial aid, and student and academic services prior to and once on campus. The campus contacts are listed below for each of the technical colleges, University of Wisconsin System schools, and private colleges and universities (Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities).

Wisconsin Technical College campus contacts

UW System campus contacts

Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities campus contacts

Opening Doors to College

The Foster Youth to College Advisory Group created the Opening Doors to College for Foster Youth information. Both resources provide support for foster youth getting to and succeeding in college.

The handout provides helpful information and links for youth and supporting adults.

The webcast offers :

  • Former foster youth talking about finishing high school and going to college
  • Other career options
  • Resources from the Department of Public Instruction
  • How to get into college
  • Ways to pay for college

Additional Resources

Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources

Child Welfare Information Gateway: Educational Assistance includes a list of financial aid resources for youth who were involved in or adopted from the child welfare system.

College Board’s Scholarship Finder allows individuals to search thousands of scholarships in one place.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA) a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation.

Youth in foster care for even 1 day after their 13th birthday can claim independent status on this application and save money!

Fastweb is the leading online resource for finding scholarships.There is a listing of scholarships for students who are or were in foster care.

FinAid: The Go-To Guide for College Financial Aid is a complete source of student financial aid information. It also provides advice and helpful tools. Access to FinAid is free for all users..

Foster Care to Success(FC2S) is the oldest and largest national nonprofit organization working solely with college bound foster youth. Helping them transition from care to adulthood through education by giving them information, advice, support, and funding.

GoCollege offers helpful information for current and soon to be college students. A good source for information about the admissions and financial aid process.

Horatio Alger Scholarship Program is one of the largest need-based college scholarship programs in the country and is dedicated to assisting young people who faced and overcame obstacles.

NFPA Scholarship is offered by the National Foster Parent Association(NFPA). It is designed to help foster families pay for education beyond high school.

The nsoro Foundation provides academic scholarships to youth with foster care experience.

The SchoolHouse Connection provides youth leadership opportunities and scholarship funds to young people who experienced homelessness.

Together We Rise Family Fellowship is dedicated to providing higher education scholarships to youth in foster care.

Department of Public Instruction Resources

Planning for a career begins in middle school and throughout high school. Explore these resources from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to get started.

Wisconsin Educational Opportunity Program (WEOP) prepares youth and young adults to pursue higher educational opportunities by providing

  • college and career readiness programs
  • resources - includes scholarship information
  • support

Programs include:

The Precollege Scholarship Program gives middle and high school students a chance to view life on a college campus.

Academic and Career Planning (ACP) students make and develop their own ideas for success after high school. This is made through:

  • self-exploration
  • career exploration
  • the development of career management and planning skills

Upward Bound is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The support is for low-income and/or students who are the first in their family to graduate high school. The program helps high school students to prepare for college.

Talent Incentive Program Grants (TIP) aids low-income and disadvantaged Wisconsin students.  The program provides extra college funding to help:

  • reduce the student’s amount of loan
  • work-study
  • unmet need

Contact the WOEP regional office supporting your county for more information or assistance.

College Admission Testing Resources

College Board helps students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success – including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program.

Federal Student Aid provides information on standardized tests required for college and graduate programs.

ACT offers a fee waiver for youth who qualify.

SAT offers a fee waiver for youth who qualify.