Abstract: Evaluation of the Education and Training Voucher Program (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

Evaluation of the Education and Training Voucher Program

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Devlin Hanson, PhD, Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute, Washington DC, DC
Katherine Thomas, PhD, na, Urban Institute, Washington, DC
A majority of young people who age out of foster care have college aspirations, but they are less likely than their same-age peers to enroll in or graduate from college. The transition to adulthood experienced by this population is different from the transition experienced by many of their peers. Most notably, young people who age out of foster care cannot count on the financial supports that parents often continue to provide their children well into their early adult years. The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program, authorized by Congress in 2001 through an amendment to the Foster Care Independence Act, provides current or former foster youth with up to $5,000 per year for postsecondary education or training. Our study examines the use of ETV program vouchers in 10 states including the characteristics of ETV recipients, educational outcomes, and the impact of state policies and administration. This is the first multi-state study to link administrative data sources to evaluate the ETV program.

Our analyses match child welfare administrative data from 10 states (California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee) that include information about foster care histories with ETV program data and National Student Clearinghouse data on college enrollment and attainment. Controlling for demographics, characteristics of child welfare involvement, and state-level variation, we analyze differences in ETV receipt, as well as college enrollment, persistence, and graduation for 195,335 youth who were in foster care in or after their sixteenth birthday between 2005 and 2015. The analysis also draws on interviews with state administrators in these ten states around the eligibility criteria, outreach procedures, application, renewal, and disbursement policies, and other relevant policies such as tuition waivers or extended foster care. We explore how this variation in state-level administration and policy affects take-up of ETVs.

Initial analyses find low rates of ETV take-up among the eligible population. Among foster youth who were eligible for an ETV and attended college, only one in every three received an ETV. There are also substantial differences in demographic characteristics, foster care histories, and educational outcomes between youth formerly in foster care who receive ETVs versus those who don’t: youth who receive ETVs often have longer child welfare involvement, with more removal episodes and placements, and more often age out of care as their last reason for discharge. Youth who receive ETVs tend to enroll in college earlier than youth who did not and more often attend private universities.

Findings seek to better understand who receives these vouchers, how and when they are used, the educational impact for recipients, and how state-level administration and policy affect these outcomes.