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Foster Care to College: Think you can’t afford it? Think again!

If you've been in foster care any time after turning 13, your classes will likely be paid for at most Washington State colleges.

Here’s why

  • The amount of financial assistance a student receives to help with the cost of college is determined by a simple formula: Cost of AttendanceExpected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Young people who have been in foster care after turning 13 are considered “independent” students when being evaluated for financial need. This means they SHOULD NOT list anyone’s income but their own on the FAFSA.

  • Because their ability to contribute to the cost of college is based only on their own income, an “independent” student usually has an Expected Family Contribution of zero.

  • This means that their financial need will essentially be the whole Cost of Attendance (COA - Zero EFC = COA)

  • If these students fill out their financial aid forms early, they will have access to enough federal and state need-based aid to cover their tuition and then some.

  • Learn more about the financial aid process in our Financial Aid 101 section.

What does having a “zero” Expected Family Contribution mean in Washington State? 

  • Washington ranks close to first in the nation in the level of need-based financial aid available for undergraduate students.

  • A student with zero EFC who has met all of their financial aid deadlines on time will get A LOT of financial assistance from the federal and state governments.

  • For example:

Chart of financial aid packages for students with no EFC


Fostering College Knowledge

This guide is for youth who have experienced foster care. It has information about how to find money and support to pursue education beyond high school. 

Learn how to maximize your financial aid award, or skip over to our Frequently Asked Questions