California College Pathways

Readiness program aims to enrich foster youth education opportunities (Daily Bruin, Aug 2016)
Central Valley foster youth gets helping hand with college (ABC 30, Jan 2016)
Sierra College supporters former foster youth (Aug 2015)

In California every year, about 4,000 18 year-olds emancipate from foster care and find themselves on their own. Without adequate social support or life skills, many become homeless, out of work or incarcerated.

College is out of reach for most of these youth. Only 19% of the 19 year-olds who are former foster youth enroll in college compared with 62% of 19 year-olds nationally. Less than 2% of former foster youth complete a bachelor’s degree, compared with 24% of the general population. In California, 55% of former foster youth attend community college, but only 60% of those earn any college credit and only 14% earn more than 30 credits.  Less than 2% of former foster youth in California complete a bachelor’s degree.

The problem begins with former foster youth’s lack of college readiness (one-third receive neither a high school diploma nor a GED, as compared with 10 percent in the general population). But even college-ready foster youth still lack the housing, counseling and financial aid they need to persist in college.

California College Pathways, currently in place at 31 colleges, universities, and technical schools in Orange County and the Bay Area, provides former foster youth with year-round housing, financial aid, counseling, and academic tutoring and support.

In the past two years, there has been growing interest from institutions of higher education in starting college support programs for former foster youth, due to the efforts of private foundations and higher education to expand college access for former foster youth, and new federal grant money to help former foster youth meet their vocational and higher education goals.

In response, the Stuart and Walter S Johnson foundations have joined with California State University, California Community Colleges and the John Burton Foundation to expand California College Pathways programs.

California College Pathways programs use these support strategies:

  • Priority for campus housing, and availability of year-round housing, either on- or off-campus.
  • Assistance with finding a stable and skilled college mentor or coach who can help develop and monitor an education plan and tutoring to support students’ academic progress.
  • Financial aid
  • Access to student support services (such as mental health services, the Federal TRIO program, and the Educational Opportunity Program);
  • Frequent monitoring of student academic progress and follow-up advising to ensure student access to academic support services;
  • Active involvement in first-year orientation, college culture, summer bridge programs, and first-year experiences;
  • Student outcome data collection, including data on persistence and graduation rates and internal/external services accessed;
  • A formal relationship with local social services and Independent Living Programs to ensure that students receive the full range of supportive services;
  • Linkages between two- and four-year schools to facilitate student transfer;
  • A long-term plan to sustain the program itself.

For more information, please visit the California College Pathways website.