As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, APLU named Boise State University, Colorado State University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of Texas at Austin, and Western Michigan University as finalists for its 2017 Project Degree Completion Award. The annual prize works to identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion. One of the five finalists will be named the 2017 Project Degree Completion Award winner during the APLU Annual Meeting, November 12-14, in Washington, DC. In this second of a five-part series, APLU profiles Western Michigan University’s Seita Scholars Program.
In 2007, Western Michigan University (WMU) learned about the disparity in college attendance and completion rates between Michigan youth aging out of foster care and the general population. Upon identifying foster youth students at WMU, the institution found that such students comprised less than .01 percent of all undergrads even though one to five percent of all children experience foster care.
WMU launched the Seita Scholars Program to help boost college enrollment, retention, and graduation among the students who grew up in the state’s foster care system. The initiative provides students with experience in foster care a “campus coach” to help integrate their foster care experience as they transition into and through college; significant additional financial aid; and on-campus housing to ensure they have a place to stay year round, including during semester breaks.
With 115 graduates and counting, the Seita Scholars Program aims to narrow, then eliminate, the achievement gap between students who grew up in the foster care system and the broader population of first-time students.
The program helped drive an eight fold increase in enrollment among Michigan foster youth; narrowed the retention gap between foster youth and the general student body; and raised the six-year graduation rate for foster youth to 29 percent, which is considerably higher than the estimated 5 percent nationally of young people from foster care who complete a bachelor’s degree within six years.
Learn more about the other 2017 Project Degree Completion Award finalists.