After Finals, Foster Youth Students Continue to Face a Difficult Test

Last year on December 30th, Annie Blackledge and I co-authored a blog post called “After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test.” We wrote the blog to draw attention to the issue that many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live during winter break until classes resume in January. While several institutions have put in place solutions to avoid this spell of unnecessary homelessness, not all institutions have. I am reposting the blog from last year as an additional call to action to do the right thing on behalf of homeless and foster youth and young adult emancipated students.


After Finals, Foster Youth Face a Much More Difficult Test

As winter break unwinds and college students are at home for the holidays, many homeless and foster care students find themselves scrambling for somewhere to live until classes resume in January. College campuses traditionally close down for winter break. For these vulnerable students their college campus is their home, their community and a primary source of security. While their peers are headed home to see family and catch up with old friends, many of these young people are faced with bleak prospects for the holiday season.

These vulnerable youth face the same struggles as other young people trying to maintain good grades, navigating social peer groups, and planning their futures, but they face the additional burdens associated with little to no adult guidance or support. Fortunately, higher education professionals across our nation have begun to tackle the unique issues faced by homeless and foster care students. They are developing comprehensive strategies to address the most persistent barriers these students face; not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

“Higher education can be the silver bullet to achieving long-term health, housing, and economic security. And for young people who have already overcome so much adversity just to earn a seat in a college classroom, they should have every opportunity—inside and outside of the classroom—to succeed” says Jasmine Hayes, Policy Director for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Ensuring these youth have a safe, stable place to call home in-between semesters is critical. Keeping student housing open and available for youth experiencing homelessness during semester breaks is an effective approach.”

Programs in states like Colorado and North Carolina have implemented Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) in their postsecondary institutions which provide these students access to designated college administrators who are committed to helping them to successfully navigate the college-going process. States and higher education institutions across the country are also working to address the issues these students face, including

  • access to higher education opportunities and financial support;
  • navigation of the college-going process, including financial aid and service referral processes; and
  • basic needs like employment, housing and food.

These efforts are ensuring these most vulnerable students reach their highest potential.

Colleges can play a pivotal role in supporting the academic success of these students. Just ask for foster youth, Alain Datcher. “Entering college as a first time student was a daunting experience. It was a mixture of culture shock, academic rigor and rapid growth. I don’t believe I would have succeeded without the support network I had in one woman – Tamara Malone. She was a mentor, academic advisor, dean and more in one caring, compassionate woman.” When asked how he thought his experience could translate for other students who are homeless or in foster care he replied, “Proximity will define opportunity for these young people. Having a close, approachable, and tangible support network will make the difference. It did in my college education at Biola University. I’ll be earning a Master’s of Public Policy degree in April. Having one caring, single point of contact in Tamra is a big reason why I will.”

When educators act, they change lives. If you know of a foster youth student in your institution, be proactive and reach out. It can make all the difference. Find out more at http://findyouthinfo.gov/.

Strengthening Working Families Initiatives: $25M Funding Opportunity

This is a cross-posted announcement from the Department of Labor. 

DOL announces $25 million available for partnerships that improve access to education and training and quality, affordable child care for parents looking to expand their skills.

These grants reflect the Obama administration’s commitment to support working families and fuel policies aligned with 21st Century workforce realities.

To help parents obtain affordable, quality child care necessary to pursue education and training opportunities leading to good jobs in growing industries, the U.S. Department of Labor today on December 17 the availability of up to $25 million in grants through the Strengthening Working Families Initiative.

The grants will support public-private partnerships that bridge gaps between local workforce development and child-care systems. In addition to addressing these systemic barriers, funded programs will enable parents to access training and customized supportive services needed for IT, health care, advanced manufacturing jobs, and others. All participants in grant funded programs must be custodial parents, legal guardians, foster parents, or others standing in loco parentis with at least one dependent. Up to 25 percent of the grantees total budget may be used to provide quality, affordable care and other services to support their participation in training.

“For too many working parents, access to quality, affordable child care remains a persistent barrier to getting the training and education they need to move forward on a stronger, more sustainable career path,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Our economy works best when we field a full team. That means doing everything we can to provide flexible training options and streamlined services that can help everyone in America realize their dreams.”

Grants up to $4 million will be awarded to partnerships that include the public workforce system, education and training providers, business entities, and local child-care or human-service providers. In addition, all partnerships must include at least three employers. Grantees will also be required to secure an amount equal to at least 25 percent of the total requested funds through outside leveraged resources.

The department will award grants in spring 2016 with program activities beginning in July 2016. For additional information and to apply, read the full funding opportunity announcement online at Grants.gov.

Pell Grants for Dual Enrollment: A Promising Model

By Guest Author,  Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin.

A college degree or credential is the key to individual and national prosperity. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two thirds of all jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school. However, less than 60 percent of Americans 25 years and older currently have this level of preparation.

Last week, I had the fortune of engaging with hundreds of adult education practitioners, researchers, and advocates at National College Transition Network (NCTN) conference in Providence, RI. These thought leaders convened to share and identify effective strategies for helping adult learners progress to and through postsecondary education and training to good jobs.

Dual enrollment programs, in which students enroll in postsecondary coursework while working toward a secondary school diploma, was one of the many promising approaches discussed at NCTN. Research has shown that participation in dual enrollment programs can lead to improved academic outcomes for students such as greater secondary school completion, higher GPA, and increased likeliness of enrolling in and completing a postsecondary degree.

Recognizing the promise of dual enrollment, last year Congress amended the Higher Education Act to allow students who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent to be eligible for Title IV financial aid through a program called Ability to Benefit (ATB). In order to receive Title IV financial aid through ATB, students must be enrolled in an eligible career pathway program.

In an effort to expand access to higher education, on November 3rd the Department of Education published a Federal Register notice inviting postsecondary institutions, in partnership with public secondary schools or local education agencies, to apply to participate in the dual enrollment experiment that will allow students without a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent to receive Federal Pell Grants for integrated education programs. This experiment will expand access to college coursework for secondary school students from low-income backgrounds, a group that studies have identified as benefiting immensely from dual enrollment programs. The Department will invest up to $20 million in the 2016-17 award year, benefiting up to 10,000 students from low-income backgrounds across the country.

In addition to helping low-income students currently enrolled in a traditional public secondary school, this experimental program can provide much needed educational and financial support to low-skilled adults. In the U.S., over 30 million adults do not have a high school diploma and 20% of U.S. adults with a high school diploma have low literacy skills. Many of these low skilled adults are actively seeking educational programs and are working to increase skills, educational attainment, and economic outcomes, and say they want to do more. Dual enrollment programs could enable these adults, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, to achieve their goals.

To be considered for participation in the Dual Enrollment experimental site, interested postsecondary institutions must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, following the procedures listed in the Federal Register notice.

Photo of Johan Uvin

Johan E. Uvin
Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

SkillsUSA Travels to Brazil for World Skills Competition

On August 11, 2015, eighteen SkillsUSA members will attend the opening ceremony of the 43rd biennial World Skills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil. The Ceremony will take place from 6:00-8:30 p.m. EDT and will feature a grand Parade of Nations (composed of more than 50 participating countries and regions), and entertainment which highlights typical Brazilian cultural dances and more.

SkillsUSA is a national organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations, including health occupations and for further education.  SkillsUSA is a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) whose members are enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs representing multiple industry sectors. It is also a World Skills member organization, hence its participation in this week’s competition.

SkillsUSA World Team

SkillsUSA World Team

The competition will last five days, and features 62 different WorldSkills Member countries and regions from around the globe, 1,150 Competitors competing in 50 different skills, and opportunities for all participants to learn and experiment with new skills while they are in Brazil.

This is the first WorldSkills Competition ever held in Latin America, and 200,000 spectators are expected to attend the event.

The Closing Ceremony, one of the most exciting moments of the event, will be held on Sunday, August 16, 2015 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. EDT, and will present to the public the winners of the Competition.

For more information and livestream links at which you may watch the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, please visit the links below.

www.worldskillssaopaulo2015.com

www.worldskills.org

Posted by
Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
Posted by
Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.

National FFA Awards $2.7 Million to Students

In 1984, sixteen FFA members received the first awards given through the newly established collegiate scholarship program. In the 31 years since then, National FFA has given more than $41 million in scholarships.  These scholarships are provided by businesses and individuals through the National FFA Foundation to reward and encourage excellence and enable students to pursue their educational goals.

This year, National FFA awarded more than $2.7 million in scholarships to 2,158 students. Over 80% of these students are attending four-year universities in the fall, and 63% of the scholarship winners are female. The winners included 313 high school valedictorians.

The infographic below provides an overview of the 2015 scholarship recipients. You can also download a PDF of the graphic here.

FFA Infographic

Posted by
Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

New Guidance on ‘Ability to Benefit’

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 helped reopen the door to opportunity in postsecondary education by changing the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), to partially restore what is known as the “ability to benefit (ATB) alternatives”. The new law went into effect on Dec. 16, 2014, and changed the HEA to allow a student who did not receive a high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent), or who did not complete a secondary school education in a home-school setting, to be eligible for Title IV financial aid. This can now be done through a combination of ATB alternatives and enrollment in an eligible career pathway program (as determined by the Title IV eligible institutions’ staff).

Read More

Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education

Take the FCCLA@TheTable Pledge

one male and one female student are standing and talking with Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui

Student leaders of FCCLA talk with Deputy Assistant Secretary of OCTAE, Mark Mitsui

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) has launched a national campaign – FCCLA@TheTable – by asking youth to take a pledge to plan, prepare, and share healthy meals for their families. The ultimate goal is to engage youth in planning and preparing healthy meals for their family and to increase planned and prepared family meals. Because FCCLA recognizes the frantic pace of 21st century life has taken a huge bite out of a longtime American ritual — the family dinner.

The case for gathering around the dinner table is compelling: Family meals promote healthy lifestyles, strengthen family ties, and lessen the likelihood of youth engaging in negative behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and drug use. And, according to research, family dinners also can improve students’ academic performance.

“FCCLA@TheTable is an exciting initiative, and I already have seen the positive impact participating has had on my own family,” said Connor Jones, Vice-President of Public Relations for FCCLA’s National Executive Council of student leaders. “When we eat together, we grow closer. Cooking as a family also helps us make informed decisions about what we eat. I know FCCLA@TheTable can help other families just as it has helped mine.”

Taking the pledge is quick and easy. Just click on this link: http://bit.ly/1CFje3N. To make @TheTable even more special, FCCLA is challenging youth to pledge 70,000 meals — in honor of FCCLA’s 70th anniversary — before the July 2015 National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. FCCLA also is encouraging those who take the pledge to help spread the word by taking a picture of their family meal, posting it on Facebook or Instagram and tagging #FCCLAatTheTable!

Photo of a group of students and OCTAE staff standing in front of US and Department of Education Flags

Student Leaders from FCCLA stand for a photo following their visit with OCTAE staff in Washington, D.C.

FCCLA is a national Career and Technical Student Organization that provides personal growth, leadership development, and career preparation opportunities for students in Family and Consumer Sciences education. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education recently met with the FCCLA National Executive Council of student leaders during FCCLA week which was February 8 -14.

The Council shared how being enrolled in Family and Consumer Sciences courses and being members of FCCLA has prepared them with practical skills and advanced knowledge to further their career preparation, including how STEM is an integral part of their Family and Consumer Sciences programs; actually helping them to put this knowledge in to practice.

For more information, visit the FCCLA@TheTable website. The resource list provides lots of inspiration, including meal time conversation starters – the secret ingredient to a memorable family dinner.

College and Career Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE
Posted by
College and Careers Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE

Public Comments Received on Career Pathways

On April 23, 2014, the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) issued a Request for Information on Adoption of Career Pathways Approaches for the Delivery of Education, Training, Employment, and Human Services in the Federal Register. The request asked commenters to respond to 13 different questions regarding the design and implementation of career pathways systems. The comment period closed on June 9, 2014 and generated an impressive 142 public comments.

Read More

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
abolton_150
Posted by
Policy Analyst, OCTAE
Posted by
Director, Policy, Research, and Evaluation Services Division, OCTAE

CTSOs Foster Growth

My life did not begin in what most would consider ideal circumstances. At the age of two I was separated from my biological family and made a ward of the State of Texas. At the age of six, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) terminated all parental rights, assumed permanent managing guardianship of my care and well-being, and selected adoption as my permanent planning goal.

Only a small percentage of the numerous children placed in foster care are actually adopted. Tragically, few children in the foster care system emerge as a graduate from high school, let alone consider continuing into higher education. The students who do manage to graduate from high school are more likely than their peers to have only completed the minimum requirements and are at higher risk of requiring remediation in college.

Read More

Photo of Isabel Soto
Posted by
Confidential Assistant Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education U.S. Department of Education

Addressing the Challenges of Developmental Education

On August 12, leaders from across the higher education, philanthropic and non-profit communities gathered to discuss the research, evidence, and challenges associated with reinventing developmental education. Secretary Duncan framed the developmental education challenge as both a completion and equity issue, saying, “As you know, we can no longer use the traditional approach to developmental education, which has been a long sequence of remedial classes that do not count toward a degree and few students are able to complete.”

Read ED’s Homeroom Blog. where Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui recaps the meeting and highlights how the White House is building momentum around addressing developmental education challenges.