Institutionalizing Support for College Students Impacted by Foster Care

Despite the growing national media attention, shedding light on the precarious experiences of college students impacted by the foster care system, they remain on the margins of higher education research, policy and discourse. The data are clear though. On any given day there are nearly half of million youth in the foster care system (of which Black and Native American students are disproportionately represented) who have been subject to some form of abuse, neglect, or concerns about safety and wellbeing. Of those in care, anywhere between 20-25,000 will “age-out,” which refers to the process in which these youth are forced into adulthood (usually at age 18), often with few supports and resources. And despite maintaining high aspirations for college, the reality is that few realize this dream. Estimates from research have indicated that only about 7-13 percent of students impacted by foster care enroll in college and as little as 3 percent graduate with a bachelor’s degrees.

The challenges facing young adults impacted by foster care are numerous and well-documented. They range from difficulty meeting their basic needs and mental and behavioral challenges to academic under-preparation and informational barriers about resources and support available to them, among many other challenges. To be clear, however, hundreds of students with histories in foster care overcome seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, persisting to degree completion—and there is a great deal we can learn from “the 3%.” Instead, what I am suggesting is that colleges and universities have an institutional responsibility to meet the unique needs of this group by working to  address barriers that stymie their full participation in the academic and social spheres of campus life—and institutions who do not, conspire in their educational failure.

Dr. Royel M. Johnson

I offer the following recommendations for educators and administrators working to institutionalize support for college students impacted by the foster care system:

Raise Institutional Awareness: As I have pointed out elsewhere, one significant challenge in supporting college students impacted by foster care is the lack of general public awareness

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Achieving the Dream Announces New Racial Equity Leadership Academy

Equity initiatives only work if university leaders are on board. At least that’s the principle behind the Racial Equity Leadership Academy, a new program announced at the opening plenary of the 16th annual Achieving the Dream conference on Tuesday.

Achieving the Dream, a non-profit focused on higher education reform, partnered with the University of Southern California (USC) Race and Equity Center to create an intensive three-day institute for community college leaders with funding from the Kresge Foundation.

Dr. Karen A. Stout

Dr. Shaun Harper, executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, expressed “tremendous excitement and optimism” for the leadership academy as a “substantive, multidimensional strategy to improve racial equity at community colleges.”

“I am confident that numerous instructive and inspiring models of excellence will emerge from our collaboration,” he said in a statement.

This July, 40 people from ten selected colleges will gather in Los Angeles, California to work through a curriculum of eight modules designed to give them a foundational understanding of racial equity with an emphasis on topics that benefit from thorough, face-to-face discussions.

At the end of the three days, leaders will develop one central project to institute on their campuses, which can range from diversifying the faculty to tackling campus climate problems to boosting transfer rates for minority students.

Over the course of the year, participants will work on bringing their campus-specific equity goals to fruition, with monthly virtual meetings with Achieving the Dream and USC Race and Equity Center coaches for guidance. At the next Achieving the Dream conference – which will take place in Orlando, Florida in February 2021 – each school will present on its progress.

The Racial Equity Leadership Academy is intended to engage different kinds of campus leaders, requiring each school to participate in teams of four comprised of the president or chancellor, a faculty member, a cabinet-level student affairs officer or diversity officer and a senior academic leader, like a provost or vice provost.

For Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Ac

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If Law Allows, Nurse Practitioners May Be Answer to U.S. Physician Shortage

As the U.S. faces a severe shortage of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs) are ready, willing and able to meet healthcare needs — if only they’re allowed to do so. 

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses who have earned either a master’s or doctorate degree. Specialties include acute care, adult gerontology, emergency, neonatal, pediatric, psychiatric, women’s health and family practice. NPs are filling the primary care needs in many underserved communities, and today’s training is designed to equip them to address healthcare disparities.

An obstacle for maximizing NPs across the U.S. is the fact that the majority of states do not grant them full scope of practice. At present, only 22 states and the District of Columbia allow NPs to practice on their own to the full extent of their training. Other states allow a collaborative agreement with a physician, and some states, such as California, require direct supervision by a physician.

Dr. Carolyn Montoya

In January, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times advised legislators to “unleash nurse practitioners to improve Californians’ access to healthcare.” NPs are trained and qualified to take patient histories, perform physical exams, order lab tests, analyze lab results, prescribe medicines, authorize treatments and counsel patients about healthcare, but, the editorial argues, the requirement to do these things only under direct supervision hampers NPs from going into the communities that need them the most.

By positive example, the state of New Mexico, which has allowed NPs full scope of practice since 1993, has NPs setting up their own clinics in rural communities and improving healthcare outcomes.

“Since the inception of the nurse practitioner and nurse midwifery programs at the College of Nursing, it has always been committed to meeting the needs of rural and underserved populations,” says Dr. Carolyn Montoya, professor and associate dean for clinical affairs at the University of New Mexico (UNM) College of Nursing.

Addressing the Need

An article in Health Affairs from December 2018 notes that the number of NP graduates continues to rise, while medical

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Survey Findings Spotlight Food, Housing Insecurity Among College Students

When Bowie State University in Maryland announced this week that it is opening a food pantry on campus to provide free, nutritious food for students in need, it joined a growing number of higher education institutions around the country offering such services.

Sharif Coombs (left) and David Medley at a food pantry at Bowie State University. Photo courtesy of Bowie State University.

However, the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice released its 2019 #RealCollege survey findings this week, which found that despite such efforts, 39% of student respondents were food-insecure within 30 days prior of taking the survey. It also found that 46% of respondents were housing-insecure in the previous year and 17% were homeless at some time during previous year.

In February 2013, the food pantry at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) opened its doors with the initial goal of providing emergency grocery items to UMass Boston students who did not have access to food for balanced and healthy meals. But since then, the pantry has expanded into not just providing typical pantry items, but also fresh produce, toiletries and some school supplies. Any student enrolled for at least one credit is eligible to use the pantry, according to its website.

According to UMB program coordinator Valerie Lamour, the food pantry, with the help of its business and community partners, has enough supplies “to make an impact” but isn’t reaching as many students as possible. “Some students don’t feel comfortable coming to the office because there’s a lot of stigma involved with seeking out help,” Lamour told Diverse. She said their services also include housing referrals. “We try to connect students with the housing resources that are out there, though there are few, and we’re trying to come up with some sort of answer for emergency housing,” Lamour added.

Bowie State, an h

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