San Diego County Foster Youth Have a Place at CSUSM
By Margaret Chantung
Cal State San Marcos Renews Agreement with County of San Diego
When it comes to college, children in foster care clearly have the deck stacked against them, experiencing some of the lowest educational outcomes of all youth. Only half of foster children in the nation earn a high school degree. Of those who do, only three percent end up on a university campus, and from there the odds of actually graduating with a bachelor’s degree are even slimmer.
In an effort to turn these statistics upside down and increase the academic success rate of foster care children in the region, CSUSM President Karen Haynes and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts, along with other County officials, recently renewed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to prepare San Diego County foster youth for entrance into the University. The agreement, first signed in 2008, will ensure that all foster youth county-wide will have a better chance of academic success and guarantees admission to CSUSM for those who meet minimum entry requirements. Not only does this MOA guarantee admission to Cal State San Marcos but it helps students become college-ready, qualified to apply to any of the CSU system’s 22 other campuses.
“We know that this partnership is about more than institutions coming together—it’s about changing lives,” said President Haynes. “Together, we want all foster youth in San Diego County to know that we have a place for them at Cal State San Marcos. We are telling these young people that if they are willing to do the work, they are in with a guaranteed spot at CSUSM and a very real opportunity to earn a college degree.”
The agreement, signed on September 16, states that San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and the Child Welfare Services Department will prepare the foster youth academically for Cal State San Marcos. Once they arrive for their freshmen year, CSUSM will provide unique and individualized assistance through its ACE Scholars Services program. Founded in 2007, ACE helps former foster youth overcome barriers and supports them in earning a college degree. The program has an 88 percent student retention rate and currently supports 57 foster youth—the largest number per capita at any university in the nation.
“We take our responsibilities for these kids very seriously,” said Supervisor Cox. “That’s why over the years I’ve partnered with Supervisor Ron Roberts to continuously improve our foster care system. We opened the award-winning San Pasqual Academy for foster teens. We made sure our foster kids had access to library cards. And we ramped up our adoptions efforts. But the sad fact remains that most foster kids don’t make it to college—and those who do need a support system. Eventually, all foster kids age out of the system and we have to prepare them for adulthood. That’s where the ACE Scholars Services program at CSUSM comes in. And that’s why our Board is renewing our commitment to this program and extending our partnership with Cal State San Marcos.”
Julius Williams, a visual arts and technology major, came to CSUSM from San Pasqual Academy. He credits CSUSM and ACE Scholar Services for helping him achieve his academic goals.
“I did not grow up with any support from my family, and going to college was something I wanted but didn’t know if I could achieve,” he said. “To all of those out there who, like me, were not raised in the most ideal of circumstances —who are struggling to hold on to their dreams of a bright future—I encourage you to hang on…because Cal State San Marcos believes in you and we have a place for you here.”
For more information on the ACE Scholars Services program at CSUSM, visit www.csusm.edu/ace.