San Antonio’s public higher education institutions are partnering to support college students served by the foster care system.

The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University – San Antonio, and Alamo Colleges are collaborating with the Bexar County Children’s Court and Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA) on a $3.5 million two-year pilot program, funded by a State appropriation.

Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores said a survey of foster care youth enrolled at his community college system revealed that nearly 60 percent said they had recently experienced housing insecurity and nearly 40 percent said they had experienced food insecurity.

The $3.5 million, divided among the three school systems, will pay for resources that address physical and mental health, financial needs, employment, and housing for current and former foster care children. Services will vary by institution, officials said Monday at a press conference announcing the partnership.

The pilot program is aimed at addressing foster care youth who enroll in the three campuses but fail to graduate, and ultimately helping those approximately 600 students obtain their degrees. A study conducted in Texas shows that roughly one-third of foster care alumni enroll in college, but just 1.3 percent graduate with a bachelor’s degree by age 24, officials said Monday.

“If we can figure this out for our kids with a history of foster care who have in some ways the greatest hurdles in front of them, we should be able to translate that to benefit how we support all of our students,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said.

There are about 35,000 children in the Texas foster care system statewide, with 3,500 living in Bexar County, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Krizia Franklin, who grew up in foster care and graduated from UTSA in 2015, asked legislators to fund the program. Her hope is that the program helps other foster care youth experience the benefits of a college degree.

“It is my hope that through the Bexar County pilot program, a few years from now,” she said, “we can look back and see how many foster youth were provided with that opportunity and that privilege of an education which is necessary to survive in today’s world.”

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.