MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Dreaming big is getting easier for foster youth in Minnesota thanks to a new law taking effect next year.

Recently, the Fostering Independence Higher Education grant program passed in the State Legislature. It includes almost $3.8 million to help those in the foster care system pay extra costs associated with schooling.

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Those costs can include college tuition, books, room and board. Those eligible must be foster children between the ages of 13 to 26. They also must be Minnesota residents currently or previously in foster care within the state.

Recipients must be accepted into or attending eligible institutions in Minnesota as well. The awards apply beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year.

WCCO caught up with those involved in the foster care system weighing in on the program during a panel hosted by the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Travis Matthews was just one who attended the event.

“It just feels really good because now my future is pretty like stable and I don’t have to worry about like what my next few years are going to look like, because I know that this bill is going to be in effect and it’s going to like help me,” said Matthews.

He’ll be attending Hamline University this fall and says he took out a loan to pay for the first year. He’s hoping the bill will help with his second year as well.

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“It makes me feel like stress [is] being lifted, just relief, it’s amazing,” he said.

Jamari Jones, another former foster child, says the interest in education is present within the system.

“I can only imagine how many foster youth just want to go to school, even if they didn’t know how to create those means,” said Jones.

Hoang Murphy, the executive director of Foster Advocates and another former foster child himself, said kids in the system have to have grit, while other kids get to have dreams.

“That 13-year-old who is in foster care who thinks ‘no one has been saving for me, nobody is going to be able to co-sign a loan, what’s the point?’ Now there is a real one,” said Murphy. “Minnesota finally is, I think in a really important way, finally meeting its promise that when we separate foster youth, we promised that they were going to have a better outcome and a better life than if they had been left.”

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Many feel this legislation is attempting to bridge the gap and provide more Minnesota children with the tools to realize their dreams.

Shayla Reaves