The rise in graduation rates has been celebrated nationally, however the rise has not 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 welcomed national experts – including Dr. Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California and Dr. Jody McVittie – and teams from five states who are committed to improving educational outcomes for foster youth.
Participants learned 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 are essential to increasing college access and persistence in postsecondary education.
Gateway to College National Network is committed to the success of our country’s most underserved youth. In 2016, we launch a partnership in Portland, Oregon that will prepare system youth – foster, adjudicated, and homeless youth – to finish high school and successfully complete their first year in college. If successful, this initiative will place many more foster youth on a pathways to postsecondary success, and address a critical inequity in our education system.