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July 7, 2021

Expanding Promise Symposium SPARK Talks: Students In or Aged-Out of Foster Care Design Team

On June 2nd, 2021, College Promise and ETS held day one of the Expanding Promise Symposium, a virtual event centered around the findings of five research design teams examining the wrap-around supports and financial sustainability solutions that best aid and enable different groups of students to enter and persist to, through, and beyond college into living wage jobs and community life. The symposium brought together students, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and other Promise stakeholders to review and discuss scholarly insights for five key student populations: First-Generation Students, Youth In or Aged-Out of Foster Care, Students with Disabilities, Student Parents, and Students Needing Academic Support. The symposium’s programming included lightning-round talks, in which a member of each research design team gave a 5-minute presentation summarizing the findings and recommendations for their studied student population.  

Dr. Sebrena Jackson, Director of the MSW Program at the University of Alabama School of Social Work represented the Students In or Aged-Out of Foster Care research team, which also includes Dr. Angelique Day of the University of Washington and Partners for Our Children, Dr. Lauren Ford of San Mateo County Community College District, Dr. Douglas Harris of Tulane University, Dr. Angelique Salizan of Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Ms. Catherine Lester of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Jackson shared that there are over 400,000 foster youth nationwide and nearly 20,000 youth between the ages of 18-21 who have aged out of the foster care system. While 80% of foster youth aspire to enroll in college, only 20% do so successfully.

Jackson then identified multiple barriers that foster youth encounter when pursuing higher education, including financial difficulties, housing challenges, balancing work and school, lack of adult support or guidance, and mental health issues. However, Dr. Jackson also emphasized that these students are defined by more than just the roadblocks they face, explaining, “It's important not to just talk about the barriers and the challenges without also saying that this group also is super resilient… they have grit, they have determination to succeed in spite of the obstacles that they face.”

Jackson’s design team recognized that the basic College Promise framework that offers free tuition goes a long way toward helping foster youth pursue higher education and suggests further financial support would compound the benefits. Other recommendations for wrap-around services center on empowering foster youth students by establishing campus programs offering personal, social & emotional support as well as building collaborations with local agencies and community partners.

To learn more, watch the full recording here.

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