Senator Leyva Introduces Legislation to Improve Educational Success of Foster Youth

SB 228 Would Build Upon Success of NextUp Program to Better Serve Foster Youth

Friday, January 15, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Continuing her work to improve educational opportunities for foster youth, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) introduced legislation allowing greater access to higher education for current and former foster youth by strengthening an existing program for foster youth attending California’s community colleges.

In 2014, serious educational disparities facing foster youth led the California State Legislature to pass SB 1023 (Liu), which established a special program—known as NextUp—for foster youth enrolled in community college.  In place at 45 community colleges, the program serves 2,100 current and former foster youth annually.  NextUp provides a comprehensive array of services to promote college retention and degree attainment.  Students must have been in foster care after the age of 16, be under age 26 and be enrolled in a minimum of nine units to participate.  While the NextUp program has been very effective, several barriers to access have been identified that create challenges for foster youth attempting to pursue a postsecondary credential.

Sponsored by John Burton Advocates for Youth and California Youth Connection, SB 228 removes barriers facing foster youth by modifying eligibility to enable students who were in foster care after age 13 to participate in the NextUp program.  Moreover, the bill creates flexibility around income requirements for students transitioning from full-time employment to school, specifying that existing funds can be used to provide support to enrolled students as they are matriculating, and clarifying that programs should create streamlined systems for application and entry.  This measure also expands eligibility for foster youth priority enrollment in both financial aid and the NextUp program at the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges.

“SB 228 will help improve the educational success of foster youth enrolled in community colleges across our state,” Senator Leyva said.  “Many foster youth suffer traumatic experiences early in their lives that put them at a real disadvantage in trying to get ahead both academically and personally, so it is imperative that we do all we can to offer them greater access to opportunities for success through programs like NextUp. I am proud to advance this important issue that will surely make a lasting positive impact on the lives of foster youth throughout California.”

Children and youth typically enter foster care due to serious abuse and neglect.  This trauma is often compounded by the instability they experience while in foster care, through placement and school changes.  Together, these difficult situations lead to poor educational outcomes, most notably low rates of college completion: just eight percent obtain a degree by age 26 as compared to 46 percent of the same-age non-foster youth population.

“The NextUp program has been enormously successful in its mission to help foster youth succeed in college, but there are students who are still missing out on this support. SB 228 will ensure that these students, who have overcome significant obstacles in order to enroll in college, have the help they need to be successful,” stated Debbie Raucher, Education Director at the John Burton Advocates for Youth.

SB 228 will be eligible to be considered in Senate policy committee(s) later this spring.