Center helping students in foster care achieve college success

SAN ANTONIO – Graduating from college can be challenging and stressful. In fact, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, only a small percentage of those who age out of foster care and enroll in college will graduate.

Caroline Nolen is a junior at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and when she's done with her undergraduate work, she's hoping to go to law school, but she said getting to that point wasn't easy.

When Nolen was 14 years old, she entered the foster care system, and then at 18, she aged out without a parent or guardian to guide her through her college career.

“Filling out (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and figuring out how credits work is already really confusing when you have someone to help you," Nolen said. "But when you don’t have anyone there to help you, it’s really, really confusing, and it can be discouraging from even attempting to do it, which is why I think a lot of foster kids don't even try."

Research conducted in the state showed 33% of foster care alumni enroll in college, but only 1.3% graduate with a bachelor’s degree by 24.

The staff at the new Fostering Educational Success Center is hoping to change that by helping students with a history of foster care through coaching and connecting students to resources on campus and in the community.

“On one hand, yes, they should be treated like any other student," said Dr. Chris Goldsberry, associate director of the Fostering Educational Success Center. "But on the other hand, they should be treated like any other student with a little extra care because these students don’t have parents to turn to. They don’t have anyone to turn to. So the purpose of this center, and the importance of this center, is that these students have somewhere to go.”

Nolen said she now turns to the Fostering Educational Success Center not only for resources but also emotional support.

“It’s definitely given me so much assurance to know that if I can’t figure something out, someone else can and I don’t have to do it all by myself. I can get help,” Nolen said.

The new center is located on the second floor of the Student Union (SU 2.01.05) at the UTSA Main Campus.

One service provided by the Fostering Educational Success Center is a hygiene pantry, which offers essentials such as deodorant, shampoo, facial tissue, laundry detergent, toothbrushes and toothpaste at no charge to the students the center serves. The staff is currently accepting donations for those items.

To learn more about the Fostering Educational Success Center or to donate to the hygiene pantry, contact Christopher Goldsberry at Christopher.Goldsberry@utsa.edu or 210-458-6937.  

About the Author: