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From Foster Care to Higher Ed

August 7, 2006

Children in foster charge face particular challenges in earning college degrees and deserve more attention from colleges and lawmakers, a new report says.

"College Access, Financial Aid, and College Success for Undergraduates From Foster Care" offers an overview of the experience of foster children who go on to higher education and outlines suggested policy changes. Students from foster care are much less likely to complete a higher education and are more likely to need financial aid than other students, the report says.

Of students who entered higher education in 1995, 56 percent of non-foster students earned a degree or certificate in six years. Only 26 percent of those who had been in foster care did. The foster population is a large one -- involving more than 800,000 children a year -- and those who eventually enter higher education are more diverse than the student population as a whole. Just under half of foster students in higher education are minority students.

Income levels of foster alumni in higher education lag behind not only traditional undergraduates, but even independent undergraduates as a group, the report says, citing Education Department data. For example, at four-year public institutions, income averages were $23,287 for foster students, $33,297 for non-foster independent students, and $58,351 for dependent undergraduates.

The report was written by Ryan J. Davis, research and policy associate at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and is being released by the aid administrators' group. The report urges the federal government to extend Medicaid coverage for students from foster care through age 24, calls on states to make sure that foster programs pay attention to educational progress and encourage students to aspire to higher education, and encourages colleges to recruit these students and to create special programs to help them succeed.

The issue of foster alumni in higher ed appears to be attracting increasing attention. In December, the Institute for Higher Education Policy released a report on the subject.

 

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