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Grant to Foster Improvements for Foster Youth in College



December 30, 2011

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – From budgeting time to budgeting money, there's no shortage of challenges for college students – and they are often magnified for foster youth, who don't have the same types of safety nets to fall back on as other students.

Western Michigan University (WMU) has built a network of "campus coaches" that provide round-the-clock support for foster youth and – with a $700,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation – plans to launch a statewide initiative to stimulate similar efforts on all Michigan college campuses.

According to WMU Professor of Social Work Yvonne Unrau, the goal is to build on what is already working.

"Some schools have already begun that effort and so, we want to help share the lessons learned here."

Traditionally, the odds have been stacked against foster youth and their college aspirations, explains Unrau. National statistics show that, while 70 percent of foster youth express a desire to attend college, fewer than three percent eventually earn a degree. She says making those dreams of higher education a reality means reaching out early to foster youth to provide information about college, as well as letting them know they will have support to deal with whatever issues they face.

"Problems related to finances and employment, to housing, health issues; relationship challenges that go on, personal and cultural identity issues; life skills."

In partnership with the Michigan College Access Network, the statewide initiative will include development of a website to promote foster-youth college access and success. Unrau says they hope to reach foster kids by age 12, so they can begin considering college as they are entering high school.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI