The Urban Institute hosted a webinar on March 7, 2023, that reviewed their recent research report on Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs). The report highlights the various barriers that prevent youth in foster care from attending higher education and ultimately had a sample inclusion of over 125,000 young people (ages 16 and above) in foster care in 10 different states. Researchers Devlin Hanson, Michael Pergamit, and Laura Packard Tucker presented their findings and recommendations from the report and Dr. Nathanael Okpych additionally shared his research on effective higher education supports for youth in care.

Young people with foster care history want to attend college, however, the high cost is a barrier, and when they do attend, they are more likely to drop out and less likely to graduate compared to their peers. Furthermore, working to maintain a steady income can often conflict with participation in postsecondary institutions. Given that students with foster care experience have much higher rates of working while enrolled in school, they are significantly more likely to drop out due to the difficulty of juggling so many responsibilities. The Urban Institute demonstrates that students with foster care history are more likely to attend two-year public schools, live off-campus, attend part-time, and have a higher net price of attendance.

In accordance with the 2001 amendment to the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Act, the ETV program provides assistance of up to $5000 per year for the cost of attending an institution of higher education for youth with foster care experience after age 16. ETV funds are distributed to states, which can have different forms of implementing the program. According to the study, students who are ETV recipients, when compared to ETV eligible students who do not receive the ETV, are more likely to enroll in college at younger ages, enroll in four-year colleges, and graduate at higher rates.

The Urban Institute recommends that to continue towards success for youth in foster care, changes must be made to best support students. This includes increasing the maximum award amount, increasing overall funding, increasing and improving outreach to youth, and reducing barriers to apply and receive an ETV. We must continually work to remove the barriers that are preventing youth with foster experience from postsecondary participation and completion.

By Erin Weiss, Policy Intern