January/February 2017Vol. 17, No. 10Helping Youth in Foster Care Attain Postsecondary Goals
New recommendations from the Educational Commission of the States (ECS) outline how State policymakers can more intentionally help youth currently or formerly in foster care attain postsecondary educational goals. In an October 2016 policy paper, Strengthening Policies for Foster Youth Postsecondary Attainment, ECS recommends States make better use of existing supports to implement policies that will boost postsecondary attainment for youth in foster care. ECS recommendations include the following:
- States should consider filing for reimbursement under the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) and promote training vouchers for youth under the Educational and Training Vouchers (ETV) Program. The CFCIP was established in 1999 to incentivize States with Federal funds to increase a variety of supports for youth, including assistance with employment, housing stability, access to health-care coverage, educational attainment, and personal development. The ETV program was added to CFCIP in 2002 to provide financial, academic, and social support to youth to help them complete their education. ETVs are CFCIP funds extended directly to students for enrollment in accredited training or postsecondary programs. ECS contends that ETVs will encourage students to enroll in such programs and also provide States with financial support to help make these reforms sustainable.
- States should consider expanding the age for foster care eligibility beyond age 18. By providing wraparound services such as housing, child care, transportation, financial literacy, and counseling—in addition to offering financial aid—fewer youth are likely to slip through the cracks during the college transition process.
- States should create, or, if already existing, enhance, tuition waiver programs. ECS argues that this will help increase access to postsecondary education for youth coming from foster care. Twenty-eight States have enacted tuition assistance policies with varying eligibility requirements and funding options.
- States should expand awareness of the financial and other important supports available to assist youth currently and formerly in foster care in pursuing postsecondary education.
Current statistics show that less than 3 percent of youth in foster care will obtain a bachelor's degree and only 46 percent will receive a high school diploma.
ECS operates as an interstate compact representing all 50 States and four territories to exchange information, ideas, and emerging research in the field of educational policy, including early learning, postsecondary education, and workforce readiness. Each State appoints seven commissioners, including elected officials (Governors, State senators, or Representatives) and appointees.
Strengthening Policies for Foster Youth Postsecondary Attainment is available at http://www.ecs.org/strengthening-policies-for-foster-youth-postsecondary-attainment/.