Does Extending Foster Care beyond Age 18 Promote Postsecondary Educational Attainment?
Although foster youth approaching the transition to adulthood have postsecondary educational aspirations similar to those of young people in the general population, for too many foster youth with these aspirations, a college education remains an unfulfilled dream. Previous analyses of data from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (the Midwest Study) suggested that young people may be more likely to pursue their postsecondary educational goals if they are allowed to remain in foster care until age 21 rather than 18, as has traditionally been the case. This issue brief reviews the data that were initially reported and presents more-recent data from the same longitudinal study regarding the relationship between postsecondary educational attainment and extending foster care until age 21.
It is clear from the Midwest Study data that at least some former foster youth pursue their education beyond age 21. The proportion of Midwest Study participants who had completed at least one year of college rose from 29.6 percent at age 21 to 37.4 percent at age 23 or 24. However, only 6.2 percent of the 23- or 24-year-olds had graduated from college with either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. This means that just 16 percent of the former foster youth who had completed at least one year of college were college graduates by age 23 or 24. The authors explore possible barriers to educational attainment that may confront these young people.