Nationally, the rise in the high school graduation rate to 81% has given many states and communities reason to celebrate. These improved graduation rates have not, however, reached all segments of the population. Graduation rates remain low for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and students with limited English proficiency. The high proportion of foster youth who drop out before completing high school is especially alarming. Fewer than 50% of foster youth graduate from high school, and those who do graduate are unlikely to move on to a 4-year school. Fewer than 10% graduate from college, at a time when a college credential is increasingly critical to job prospects.
A significant number of Gateway to College students – approximately 10% of the students in our 41 programs – identify as foster youth. Increasingly, research shows that students succeed when they receive additional support services and interventions that help them navigate challenges in and out of the classroom. Approximately 70 percent of foster youth report that they want to attend college. They just do not know how. For foster youth, specific interventions are especially important for success in providing them a pathway to a postsecondary credential.
Over the course of two days, December 3 and 4, Casey Family Programs and Gateway to College National Network welcome national experts – including Dr. Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California – and teams from five states who are committed to improving educational outcomes for foster youth. Participants will learn about federal resources and opportunities to support foster youth, effective system approaches and interventions, and trauma and learning. Understanding the barriers these young people face in reaching educational milestones and how the issues of trauma present themselves and are responded to in a diverse, 21st century college environment are essential to increasing college access and persistence in postsecondary education.
If we are to continue to make progress toward providing pathways to postsecondary success for all students, it is essential that we work to improve outcomes for some of the most marginalized groups of students. Gateway to College National Network is proud to support Casey Family Programs in their work to support educational opportunities for foster youth, and in convening a group of fellow practitioners and leaders working with these youth in a diverse group of states. We are committed to improving the outcomes of the foster youth in our programs and, as we implement strategies and learn more, to share best practices with organizations and institutions nationwide who are helping these youth break through barriers to education and success.