The Institute for Higher Education Policy's 2006 report, Higher Education Opportunities for Foster Youth, indicated that
if foster youth completed high school and entered higher education at the same rate as their peers, roughly an additional 100,000 of foster youth would be attending colleges or technical schools. Currently, only 30,000 are participating in post-secondary education.

Foster Care and College Recruitment

Education is a critical element for every young person in terms of having a successful transition to adulthood. But, too often, for young people in foster care, the need for a stable education is overshadowed by efforts to protect their physical safety. Foster care youth attend five different high schools on average.

Quote from Lisa Dickson, foster care alumna and founder of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America: "Every time we change schools, it has an impact on us, both intellectually and socially. During my sophomore year of high school, I changed schools three times in one year. I was taking Algebra, and each school had a different textbook. By the third school change, I had definitely fallen behind."

Today, however, Lisa has a Bachelors and a Masters degree. A college admissions counselor, Randy Mills, chose to overlook her one missing Math credit and enroll her in college. This decision opened the door for her future.

The Need for College Preparation

- 75% of foster youth express a desire to attend college
- Only 15% are enrolled in college prep courses in high school
- Only 20% of youth with a high school diploma / GED enroll in postsecondary education, as compared to a 60% of the general population

Involvement in extra-curricular activities varies by placement and willingness of caregivers to go the extra mile. Extra curricular activities help young people to discover their talents and capabilities, such as athletic prowess, artistic abilities or communication skills. Building on these skills can lead to scholarships, and provide overall direction for their lives.

College visits prior to emancipation help to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown. A college campus will no longer seem foreign, after a day spent walking across campus, visiting classrooms and having lunch in the college food court. Visiting a campus demystifies higher education and makes it seem more attainable.

Available Resources

College Bridge programs, such as Gear UP(Gaining Early Awareness for Undergraduate Programs) and AVID(Advancement Via Individual Determination).

The Education Training Voucher program is administered by the Orphan Foundation of America. They provide scholarships of up to $5,000 to 18-20 year olds, who have emancipated from foster care or were adopted with a finalization after their 16th birthday. This money can be used for tuition, books or qualified living expenses at college, vocational or technical training programs. Youth participating in the program at the age of 21 may continue to participate until they reach the age of 23, as long as they are enrolled in a qualifying program.

Roads to Success is a college and careers program for grades 7 though 12. Their program is research-based, and their materials are free to download! Roads to Success provides more than 180 lessons developed over a five-year period and field-tested in low-income. Their free resources includ both facilitator guides and student materials,

Trio Programs are offered at over 1000 colleges, universities and community colleges. Students in the TRIO Student Support Services program are four times more likely to remain in college than students from similar backgrounds who did not participate in the program. If a young person is a first-generation college student, he or she should definitely apply for this program.