Abstract: The Role of Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) and Campus-Support Programs (CPSs) on Postsecondary Education Persistence for Foster Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

The Role of Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) and Campus-Support Programs (CPSs) on Postsecondary Education Persistence for Foster Youth

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 8, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Nathanael Okpych, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Sunggeun Park, MS, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Samiya Sayed, BA, Graduate Student, University of Chicago
Mark Courtney, PhD, Samuel Deutsch Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose:  Foster youth in higher education are significantly less likely than their peers to persist beyond their first year (Okpych & Courtney, 2018; Day et al., 2012). Education and Training Vouchers (ETVs) and campus-support programs (CSPs) for foster youth are two initiatives intended to increase persistence rates. ETVs offer qualifying foster youth up to $5,000 annually toward college costs. CSPs provide an array of financial, academic, and logistical supports to foster youth in higher education, and over 100 colleges in California house a CSP. Despite their potential, little evaluation has been conducted on these two initiatives. CalYOUTH data were analyzed to examine predictors of ETV participation and CSP involvement, and to assess the role of two initiatives on persistence. 

Methods: The sample includes 401 youths in the CalYOUTH longitudinal study who had enrolled in postsecondary education by the time of the Wave 3 interviews (age 21). National Student Clearinghouse data were obtained in 2019 to evaluate college persistence (1= completed their first two semesters, 0 = otherwise). Binary measures of youths’ ETV receipt and CSP participation were created from information obtained during the Wave 2 and 3 interviews (ages 19 and 21, respectively). Logistic regression was used to estimate the association between ETV receipt/CSP participation and persistence, controlling for demographic characteristics, foster care history characteristics, behavioral health problems, county-level factors, and college-level factors.

Results: Approximately 45% of youth persisted in their first two semesters, 52% participated in a CSP, and 42% received an ETV by age 21. Logistic regression results indicated that youth who enrolled in a four-year California public college were significantly more likely than youth who enrolled in other colleges to both receive an ETV and participate in a CSP (both p<.01). Receiving conflicting information about foster care past 18 was negatively associated with ETV receipt (p<.05). Remaining in care past the age of 18 was positively associated with participating in a CSP (p<.05). The odds of persistence for youth who received an ETV were 3.1 times the odds of youth who had not received an ETV (p<.001). The odds of persistence for youth who participated in CSPs were 2.1 times the odds of youth who had not participate (p=.026). 

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that both ETV receipt and CSP participation were positively associated with the odds of persistence. The findings are encouraging because these levers are designed to address barriers that foster youth face when completing college. Although ETVs are, in principle, available to foster youth who enroll in higher education, less than half reported receiving one. And while a growing number of colleges offer CSPs, many foster youth had not participated. Child welfare professionals appear to play a part in promoting receiving these two services, as participating in extended care and receiving straightforward information increased youths’ chances of receiving an ETV and CSP, respectively. While the findings on the roles of ETVs and CSPs are promising, they must be interpreted cautiously as this was not an evaluation study employing a rigorous study design.