Markkanen bill would expand scholarships for former foster kids

LANSING — A state scholarship program for students who have aged out of foster care would be exapnded to include vocational classes under a bill proposed by State Rep. Greg Markkanen.

House Bill 4406 was approved by the House of Representatives 104-4 in September.

The Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund, which was established in 2008, currently applies to former foster children who attend a university, four-year college or community college. Markkanen’s bill would expand eligibility to students who attend a skilled trades training program.

“I have an experience with them working with them at the former Good Will Farm and as a special ed teacher, I know how important it is to give students every option,” he said. “We proposed legislation and we’re working with the Senate here to get it through.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts estimates only 20% of foster youth who graduate from high school go on to college, a third of the overall rate. There’s no way to estimate how many of those 80% would have chosen vocational training with the scholarship, Markkanen said, but he hopes to make the option available.

The broadened scholarships would give foster children who aged out of the system opportunities to pursue training in high-demand fields such as electrical work, pipefitting, truck driving and automotive technology, Markkanen said.

HB 4406 is now in the Senate, where it has been referred to the appropriations committee.