Share, Grow, Innovate
Retention is an often touted 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% of foster care alumni nationally are completing Bachelor’s Degrees. Yet, 70% of high school aged students in foster care express a desire to attend college. There is a significant disconnect between the numbers of these students who desire to attend college, those that are actually admitted to a college (20%) and those that actual complete a Bachelor’s Degree (the above cited 2%).
These students face a number of barriers in their life up until the age of 18yrs (and beyond) that make it challenging to succeed in college. Yet, these youths 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 this would provide. Higher education must start paying attention to support these students
These 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 which university policies actually act as barriers to success for this at-risk student population.