Former foster youth pursuing a postsecondary credential are an often-overlooked student population. However, across the country, policymakers at the federal, state and institutional levels are creating policies to increase their access to higher education. Four states in particular — Colorado, Iowa, Oregon and Texas — have demonstrated success in creating policies aimed at increasing the percentage of foster youth with a postsecondary credential. 

Capitalizing on the policy momentum in these states and others, Education Commission of the States hosted a two-day State Policy Academy, “Strengthening State Support for Foster Youth in Postsecondary Education.” This convening, held mid-September in Austin, Texas, brought together multiple state teams to understand the current policy landscape, collaborate on how to develop and/or redesign programs to better support foster youth postsecondary attainment, and brainstorm best practices for continued policy development and implementation.

The state teams comprised individuals from multiple state agencies, legislative bodies and departments. Participants shared the historical overview of policy development in their states, current initiatives and future goals. These states have similar goals — to increase postsecondary degree attainment — and also face similar roadblocks that can derail well-intentioned policy actions. This policy academy provided key opportunities for states leading this work to collaborate and learn from each other, while receiving technical assistance from Education Commission of the States.

In addition to state teams from Colorado, Oregon and Texas, legislative staff from Iowa — which has seen particular success with foster youth policy development — highlighted policy design and implementation approaches in their state; and researchers prvided an overview of federal policies likely to impact state policy agendas.