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/.

Photo of Johan Uvin
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

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.

2016 National Education Technology Plan Released

Thumbnail image of NETP coverOn December 10, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of the 2016 National Education Technology Plan and new Future Ready commitments to support personalized professional learning for district leaders and educators working to improve teaching and student learning through the effective use of technology. As educators, advocates, parents, and policymakers, we must work to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology and personalized professional learning opportunities for educators and district leaders. The 2016 National Education Technology Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, articulates a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible.

The plan recognizes the role that informal learning spaces play in closing the digital use divide and achieving equity, including spaces such as libraries, maker spaces, museums, clubs, workplaces, adult education programs, national parks, and online learning environments such as games, simulations, and educational apps.

OCTAE celebrates the 2016 Plan and the added energy it brings to our ongoing priorities, including:

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Solicitation for Innovative Educational Technology Announced

This announcement is cross-posted from the IES NewsFlash of 12/08/2015.

ED/IES SBIR Fiscal Year 2016 Program Solicitation is Now Open

Through its annual competition, the Small Business Innovation Research program at the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences provides funding to firms and partners for the research and development, and evaluation of commercially viable education technology products.

On December 7, 2015, ED/IES SBIR released its Fiscal Year 2016 solicitation:

Fiscal Year 2015 “Phase I” Solicitation: Solicitation #ED-IES-16-R-0003, is a request for Phase I proposals for awards up to $150,000 for 6-months. These proposals are for the development of prototypes of education technology products to improve relevant student, teacher, or administrator outcomes in education and special education settings.

To access to the Phase I solicitation on the FBO.gov website, click here.

The submission deadline for all Phase I proposals is January 21, 2016, at 2 P.M. EST.

Please Note: ED/IES SBIR is not offering a Fast-Track (Phase I & II) program solicitation in FY 2016.

For more information about the Institute’s SBIR program, visit the program website here.

Minority Serving Community Colleges: Meeting the Future Now

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted the first Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) convening for two-year colleges on November 16th and 17th. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the representatives of MSIs, the experts from academia and the philanthropic sector, and the staffs of the White House, Congressional legislative staff and the many federal agencies, including the Department of Education, who collaborated to make this convening such a success.

Photo of Mark Mitsui addressing the audience of MSI leaders

Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui welcomes Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) leaders from across the country.

As our nation becomes more diverse, a growing number of community colleges are designated as, or are eligible to be designated as Minority Serving Institutions. These colleges play a key role in the higher education completion agenda and have a lot of hard-earned wisdom, experience, and knowledge about student success that needs to be shared. Our work on November 16th and 17th was a major step in the right direction. OCTAE hosted over 120 institutions. More than 250 participants in the convening exchanged practices with peers, networked with representatives from 13 federal agencies, and discovered how philanthropy, research, and national student success initiatives intersect with their work. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with several different divisions within the Department of Education and with Congressional staff. A panel of excellent students provided their perspectives.

This conference built on the foundation of work these institutions have already established to help their students to be successful. The energy and enthusiasm at the conference was inspiring and I am looking forward to the work ahead.

Participants agreed to join one of the MSI communities of practice, some of which had been established prior to the convening by volunteer leaders at various community colleges across the country. These communities will continue to exchange promising practices, share invaluable experiences, and connect with federal agencies in an online format.

If you are interested in joining one of the communities of practice or want to discuss other matters with us, please email me at Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov.

With this said, let me once again take the opportunity to thank the attendees for their participation in the convening, for the ideas and aspirations you shared with us, and for your continuing commitment to the well-being and success of your students.

Posted by
Mark Mitsui OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges 202-245-7812 Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov