Increasing Access to Higher Education

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Mynecia Taylor, 18, studies for the ACT at her apartment on January 6, in St. Louis, Miss. Taylor opted out of foster care at the age of 18, losing some benefits she would have received until age 21. She would like to opt back in to get benefits available to college students, and legislation has been proposed to allow that. (Photo by Lauri Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT) 

This summer, 26 foster youth going into 9th and 10th grade will spend four weeks living in dormitories at George Washington University as part of a year-long effort to expose them to — and prepare them for — college life. The students will take a two-credit college-level film reporting class and receive academic enrichment and remediation programs, said Teresa Zutter, director of First Star Greater Washington Academy, one of four Foster Youth Academies run by the national nonprofit First Star. Students will also participate in field trips, cultural events, a speakers’ forum and other activities designed to give them the enrichment and encouragement they need to ultimately be accepted into and graduate from two- and four-year college programs.

Young people who have experienced homelessness, have been in the foster care system, or have experienced other significant disruptions in their home or school lives may face significant barriers to getting into, and succeeding in, post-secondary education. A 2005 study by Casey Family Programs found that only 2 percent of young people who had been in foster care completed a bachelor’s degree. While there have been no studies of degree rates among young people who’ve experienced homelessness, a 2008 study by the Pell Institute found that only 12 percent of low-income young adults obtain bachelor’s degrees.  

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