Retention is often touted as a supreme goal for colleges and universities. How is it then that more attention is not given to the student group with the lowest national retention rate? Only 2 percent of foster care alumni nationally are completing a bachelor’s degree. Yet, 70 percent of high school aged students in foster care express a desire to attend college. There is a significant disconnect between the number of these students who desire to attend college, those that are actually admitted to a college (20 percent), and those that actually complete a bachelor’s degree (the above cited 2 percent).
These students face a number of barriers in their lives up until the age of 18 years (and beyond) that make it challenging to succeed in college. However, these youth express the same desire and goals as their peers from non-foster care backgrounds. They too desire a college degree and the social and economic opportunities it provides. We are all in positions where we can make a difference in these students’ lives.
This population of students, on average, will change high schools five times. They do not often have access to the typical college fairs or have family members to take them on visits. They need an admissions and recruitment structure that meets them, literally, “where they are.” Once admitted, they often do not have ready access to the paperwork needed to fill out the FAFSA, especially if their particular college requires additional paperwork to prove their independent student status. They are first-generation college students with limited role models in their lives to exemplify collegiate behaviors such as study skills and time management. Oftentimes their housing situations are unstable, including having nowhere to go over school breaks when the residence halls are closed. These students need an advocate and they need their larger collegiate community to be more informed about what university policies actually act as barriers to success for an at-risk student population.
This webinar will educate participants about the specific needs and challenges of the foster care alumni population. Using existing collegiate support models as a basis of understanding, they will also learn how some institutions are successfully assisting these students and helping them reach their goal of completing a college degree. The webinar speakers will provide meaningful lists of the community resources and organizations that higher education must utilize, such as child welfare, social workers, local clinics, and mentors.