Campuses expand services for students leaving foster care

Scholarships, emergency housing and other students provide extra support
By: | September 11, 2019
Western Michigan University's Seita Scholars Program provides foster care students with $13,000 scholarships, year-round housing and coaches.Western Michigan University's Seita Scholars Program provides foster care students with $13,000 scholarships, year-round housing and coaches.

A new law in Pennsylvania is designed to increase college access—and provide tuition waivers—for students aging out of foster care, Centre Daily Times reports.

Accordingly, The Pennsylvania State University’s Fostering Lions Program helps foster care students with financial, social-emotional and academic needs, the newspaper reports. Fostering Lions coach Cheri McConnell told the paper that now that tuition covered, she must help students find funding to cover housing and other day-to-day costs.

At the University of Houston, the Diamond Family Scholars Program provides scholarships for students who have spent time in foster care or who are orphaned, the student newspaper, The Cougar, reports. The scholarships cover the students’ tuition costs after Pell Grants.

And students are also lending a hand. Hunter Beaton, a freshman at The University of Texas at Austin, is using the charity he founded, Day 1 Bags, to provide backpacks and gift cards to incoming students who have been in foster care, Beaton wrote in an opinion piece for The Dallas Morning News.

In 2016, Kennesaw State University outside Atlanta opened an emergency-housing apartment for homeless students, University Business reported.

“It’s a growing trend; students are coming to our universities and technical schools trying to break the cycle of poverty, but are not aware of rising costs of education and how financial aid is decreasing,” said Marcy Stidum, coordinator of the university’s Campus, Awareness, Resource and Empowerment Center (CARE) for students who are homeless or aging out of foster care. “So they makes choices; they’ll opt out of a meal plan or they’ll opt out of housing and sleep in their cars.”


Read more from UB: Higher ed support for at-risk students


Western Michigan University’s Seita Scholars Program provides foster students with $13,000 scholarships. Before their first semester, they attend a campus “Transit Week” orientation to meet other incoming foster students. Seita Scholars are also eligible for year-round housing and are assigned to one of five campus coaches.

Marcy Stidum is coordinator of Kennesaw State University’s Campus, Awareness, Resource and Empowerment Center, which opened an emergency apartment to house homeless students in 2016.

Marcy Stidum is coordinator of Kennesaw State University’s Campus, Awareness, Resource and Empowerment Center, which opened an emergency apartment to house homeless students in 2016.

In 2018, Katie Broton, an assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Education, talked to UB about the hidden costs of food insecurity on campus. She said that more than 600 colleges now stock campus food pantries.

“Food insecurity exists at all sorts of higher education institutions and it affects students of all types, but some groups do appear to be at greater risk. They include students from low-income families, students of color, former foster care youth, LGBTQ students, and students from marginalized or historically disadvantaged backgrounds,” Broton told UB.

To help K-12 children in foster care reach higher education, the national First Star program offers academies that keep students on track for high school graduation and prepares them to enter college, Fox 11 (KTTV-TV) reports. The program focuses on academics and life skills.