Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Adult Education and Human Resource Development

First Advisor's Name

Tonette S. Rocco

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Thomas G. Reio

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Barbara Thomlison

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Sarah Mathews

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Judith Bernier

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


former foster youth, emancipated foster youth, college, university

Date of Defense



The purpose of this collected papers dissertation was to examine former foster youth as they pursue college. Foster youth are known to attend and graduate college at a rate lower than their non-fostered peers. Understanding more about the journey of former foster youth as they pursue a college degree will help to understand what barriers are faced and what supports enhance their likelihood of enrollment and graduation.

Study #1, a structured literature review, examined the scholarly literature on former foster youth and college. Data were collected through a library database search and Google Scholar. Descriptive, demographic-type information was compiled and the article contents were analyzed to identify categories and themes. Four categories with several associated themes emerged: (a) issues that impact college success (associated themes – pre-college factors, barriers and supports, social capital/family, and mental health), (b) on-campus interventions (associated themes – delivery of programs and services and development of programs and services), (c) governmental impacts, and (d) effects of a college education on the adult outcomes of former foster youth.

Study #2, a phenomenological study, explored the experiences of 15 former foster youth as they considered, applied for, and attended college. Purposeful sampling was used, and data were collected through interviews. Five major themes emerged: (a) college aspirations, (b) utilization of resources, (c) connections with supportive adults, (d) obstacles to completing college, and (d) confidence of success.

This dissertation will help inform policy and practice of the resource needs and gaps, particularly tuition and housing, for former foster youth and strategies that can encourage, support, and increase their college enrollment and graduation. These findings may prompt further research on foster care factors that influence college attendance and the development of evidence-based, on-campus program strategies that improve the college graduation rate for former foster youth.





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