Skip to main content
State Seal State Seal State Seal
Home Button Home Button Home Button

Assistant Minority Leader Jarrell Introduces First-of-its-kind Scholarship to Make Foster Kids' College Dreams Come True

May 24, 2023
Dontavius L. Jarrells News

COLUMBUS— Assistant Minority Leader Dontavius L. Jarrells (D-Columbus) and Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (R- Cincinnati) today gave sponsor testimony on bipartisan H.B. 164, legislation that would provide full cost of attendance scholarships to any Ohioan who was in foster care on or after their 13th birthday. This bill is titled, “The Foster-to-College Scholarship Act.”

“Almost every kid coming out of high school and looking at whether to go to college has parents ready to help them navigate the process of applying, choosing a school, figuring out payment, and even eventually actually going into college. Foster kids don’t.” said Rep. Jarrells. “This legislation recognizes that if you’re a foster kid and you’ve beaten the odds, you’ve managed to stay out of trouble, you’ve kept your grades up, and you’ve gotten into college we shouldn’t let money stand in your way and keep you from chasing your dreams.”

Right now, according to national data, Ohio is in the bottom 10% of states in the nation for foster children when it comes to each of the following:

  • Likelihood of graduating from high school or getting a GED;
  • Likelihood of obtaining employment;
  • Likelihood of being enrolled in school;
  • Likelihood of being incarcerated or having a criminal record. 

While 35 states including Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama offer scholarships to students who’ve gone through foster care, Ohio does not.

A study of Texas’ scholarship program showed that their foster students in the program were 3.5 times as likely to complete their degree as peer students. Research also shows that students who know they can pay for college are more likely to aspire to attend – and aspiring to attend college makes students more likely to keep their grades up and stay in school.

At an estimated cost of $7.5 million per year, the total funding amount needed would represent a minute fraction of total scholarship spending in Ohio – and about a quarter of one percent of Ohio’s current total higher education spending.

NOTE: Testimonials from two former foster children are included below.


Wright State University Chief of Police Kurt Holden (Xenia, Ohio):

“My (3) brothers and I were placed in foster care due to my mother and father struggling with addictions related to heavy drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, and physical and emotional abuse. I was in foster care from the age of 2 until I graduated high school at 17.

During my time in care, and moving around in different foster homes, I was separated from my brothers. Much of that time, I struggled and wrestled with where I could go in life and who I could become in life.

Only 2-3% of foster youth ever achieve a college degree. Most foster youth know this statistic and many shy away from attending college, because of the little to no chance of seeing a successful outcome and the lack of resources to offset barriers.

Without a clear path in life, access to resources or opportunity, 1 in 4 youth impacted by foster care will experience homelessness at some point in their life. Currently, approximately 50% of our homelessness population spent time in foster care.

I was one of those individuals that faced homelessness. I also faced food scarcity, lack of access and guidance, and job placement. So, I enrolled into college.

Sadly, my reasons were not to be a college graduate, because I knew the statistics and chances of success were nearly impossible. I needed to no longer sleep on a buddy’s couch or spend another cold night with nothing but a concrete pillow. So, I did what anyone does who is trying to be successful and I attended college. To this day, I can say doing so, saved my life.

However, due to the fact of having no resources, dealing with many barriers, including food scarcity, I obviously flunked out. I flunked out because I was unable to attend classes because I had to work multiple jobs. I worked multiple jobs to ensure that I could save money so that me and my younger brother could get an apartment together when he left care.

After I left college and got an apartment with my brother, we had stability, security, and hope.

Once I had that foundation, I re-enrolled into college for the right reasons. I no longer was flunking, I was succeeding. I have earned both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Wright State University. I graduated Grad School with a 3.4 GPA.

This education led me on a path of opportunity and success. I have been a police officer and have graciously and honorably served my community. I have been promoted through the rank of Sergeant, Lieutenant, was a K-9 officer, and have awards from the department, community, and the state. When Gov. DeWine was the Attorney General, I was awarded the Mark Losey Distinguished Law Enforcement award.

I say that not to brag, but to tell you about the potential students foster youth have. As a foster youth, I faced homelessness, flunked out of college, and faced many obstacles and ran into many barriers that were outside of my control, because of things that happened to me as a child that were outside of my control. And, with some luck and by the grace of God, I did it, but the deck was stacked against me.”

Columbus State Community College student Caidyn Bearfield (Columbus, Ohio):

“Nearly every fellow former foster youth that I have ever met relates to what I myself have endured: we were moved around extensively, often as a result of neglect or abuse experienced in a placement, and without much say in the matter.  If someone is unable to remain at the same high school, how are they supposed to be involved in extracurriculars or have a competitive GPA and earn scholarships? Without scholarships or parent support, they must pay for college themselves. No one should have to choose between their present and their future.  I know from personal experience that former foster youth and other low-income populations are faced with this difficult question: do I want to pay my bills or continue going to school?  With the rising cost of rent, groceries, and gas, it is inevitable that more people will face this dilemma.  I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should be equipped with the resources to support themselves.  Offering full-ride scholarships to students with experience in foster care will create a strong foundation so they are not dependent upon assistance programs for the rest of their life.  Full-ride scholarships would be a life-affirming preventative measure to equip today’s foster youth to defy the statistical trends we have seen for so many decades and break the cycle.”