Transitioning to college is challenging for all students but can be even more so for youth in foster care. They may lack the support, the finances and the experiences needed to best navigate the complex systems of higher education. Imagine trying to figure out FAFSA on your own for the first time or even the fourth time. It is no surprise, then, that the graduation rate of youth who are or were in foster care is extremely low - only 3% will earn a college degree.
Recognizing the unique needs of this population, professionals within the child welfare system and higher education have come together to develop and advocate for additional supports. While much of the advocacy is focused on the state and national levels, much of the developing supports take place in smaller settings, specifically on college campuses.
Colleges throughout Pennsylvania, for example, have worked over the past several years to not only identify a point of contact for students who are or were in foster care, but to also create programs that increase retention and academic success. Penn State launched the Fostering Lions Program, which aims to assist foster youth with the financial, academic, logistical and social/emotional aspects of college, for instance. While these programs have only been in place for a short period of time, schools have reported an increase in retention. It is hoped that further bolstering these supports will help change that 3% to a much higher number.
At RJLF, we are proud to know that many of our Fellows are attending colleges dedicated to helping youth in foster care, including but not limited to West Chester University, Cabrini University, Penn State, Temple University and Montgomery County Community College.
To find out more about what colleges in our area offer youth in foster care, click here.