SAN DIEGO – New state legislation signed into the state budget Monday was officially signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom that aims to help foster children in the Golden State by covering the cost of college for those kids in need.

San Diego-based foster advocates say this is life changing for San Diego foster youth exiting the system looking to attend college for free and it’s not just tuition. This also accommodates for housing, textbooks, and tech; a benefit that goes far beyond turning the tassel.

We’re really taking another step to break down those economic inequities that our foster youth might have and certainly increase the social connections that come with going to postsecondary education,” shared Steven Jella who is the Chief Program Officer with San Diego Youth Services.

Sarah Pauter is the Senior Projects Manager with John Burton Advocates for Youth. She and her siblings grew up in the foster care system in the South Bay. At 18, she went off to San Diego State University and earned her diploma, but it came with a price.

“I didn’t have parents. I didn’t have anybody who can help me take on the debt; and at 23 years old I had no credit, and I was a student, so I didn’t have a robust employment history,” Pauter expressed.

Her organization played a key role in lobbying for increased funding for financial aid for foster youth across all three public postsecondary systems in the state in the 2023/2024 budget; something included in SB 117, the higher education budget trailer bill.

In addition, SB 307, championed by Senator Angelique Ashby and Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire was signed to the state budget to make debt free college a reality statewide. It expands the preexisting Middle Class Scholarship program to allow for foster youth enrolled at a community college or four-year program at a Cal State or UC system to have 100% of their unmet need covered, including books, food and housing. Up to $20 million and funding will be directed toward the program each year.

“It’s really helped sort of quote on quote ‘break the cycle.’ I have two young children who I talk to all the time about what it’s going to be like to go to college one day,” Pauter shared.

It’s a commodity San Diegan Shane Harris, who aged out of the system in 2010, wished he could have taken advantage of. He now runs the nonprofit, People’s Association of Justice Advocates, working to spread the good news from up in North County all the way down to the South Bay.

“The next phase is to ensure that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signed legislation creates generational effect and the way we do that is to make sure this gets to the communities that need it the most,” Harris said.

This Thursday, Harris, foster youth and foster parents will gather at People’s Association of Justice Advocates Headquarters at 11:00 a.m. at 6125 Imperial Ave. There, further outreach methods will be discussed to ensure the statewide resource doesn’t go to waste.