SAN ANTONIO – A new state-funded pilot program in Bexar County will set out to help increase the number of foster care students attending college excel and graduate with a degree.
Caroline Nolen, a sophomore at the University of Texas in San Antonio, said her first year of college was extremely hard. She had to figure out financial forms, deadlines, finances and a new city all on her own.
"It's really stressful just because you're trying to get everything together for yourself and you don't have anybody to help you," Nolen said.
Nolen was put in foster care at 14. At a young age, she knew college was always a target.
"I always knew college was like the next thing I knew I had to count on because I wasn't good at anything else in school," Nolen said.
Nolen said while she felt prepared for college, it was still overwhelming. She could not imagine how much more it would be for less-prepared students.
But with the help of the Bexar County Foster Care Support Pilot Program, students like Nolen will get the support they need academically and financially.
This legislative session state lawmakers approved $3.5 million for a pilot program to help foster care students who attend UTSA, Texas A&M in San Antonio, and the Alamo Colleges.
State Sen. Jose Menendez said it is not enough to enroll a high number of students – what matters is how many people graduate.
"All the studies show that kids up to the age of 26 rely on their parents for so much support emotional, financial experience, these kids in the foster system, many of them, once they age out they have nobody to turn to," Menendez said.
The money will be used for wrap-around services for counselors to guide students.
Menendez said the goal is to support students to do well in their grades and increase the number of them who graduate.
"Not only is in the right thing to do, (but) it’s also an investment for taxpayers to help these foster kids end up graduating, getting a good career and becoming productive members of society," Menendez said.
Many kids who age out of foster care end up homeless, according to state statistics.
The state already provides funding for them to attend college.
The program will begin this next semester and be funded for two years, Menendez said good results could mean it could become a state standard.