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For some students at West Chester, paying for college won’t be a barrier to achievement.

Earlier this year, the Brook J. Lenfest Foundation and Philadelphia Foundation launched the Lenfest Immensitas Scholars Program for youth in foster care and aging out of foster care — an innovative large-scale initiative designed to increase college graduation for Philadelphians. Immensitas is Latin for “boundless” and signifies the unlimited potential of every youth, as well as the life opportunities available to those with a college degree.

“I believe that education can make all men and women equal regardless of what neighborhood they are from or what their economic start in life was like,” said Brook Lenfest. “Through education, anyone can broaden their horizons and enrich their outlook on life and pursue any career path that exists. Through that freedom, they can find fulfillment, economic security and, ultimately, a happy life.”

West Chester University is proud to be one of four schools selected to participate in this initiative that comes at a crucial time. In survey data collected last year, approximately 40% of WCU students reported experiencing some type of basic needs insecurity. Additionally, since its establishment, the Promise Program, a campus support program serving unaccompanied homeless and foster youth, has seen a nearly ten-fold increase in eligible students, from seven in 2013 to 61 in the current academic year. It’s estimated that only 3% of former foster youth who enroll in college will graduate.

Under Pennsylvania’s Fostering Independence Tuition Waiver Program, tuition and fees for undergraduate degrees at colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are covered by gift aid for youth in foster care to reduce financial barriers, but extensive funding gaps still exist.

The new $1.8 million program — of which WCU will receive up to $580,000 over five years—will cover room, board and expenses such as books, computers, and essentials for dorm living; it will also create an extensive support system for participants that will include academic advising, a summer bridge program, housing and meals during school breaks, financial and money management guidance, and a designated liaison.

“I am looking forward to partnering with Admissions in supporting Philadelphia foster youth who are graduating from high school and are looking for a college experience that recognizes the types of challenges they face,” says Tori Nuccio, WCU Deputy Director of Financial Aid.

As the largest university in the Pennsylvania State System with the second largest undergraduate enrollment in the Greater Philadelphia area, West Chester is uniquely positioned to provide a high quality college education at an affordable cost.

With the support from the Brook J. Lenfest Foundation, these students will have a greater chance to succeed.

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