First Advisor

Janine Allen

Date of Publication

Spring 6-14-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




Ex-foster children -- Education (Higher) -- United States, Ex-foster children, Community colleges, Persistence



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 211 pages)


A college education offers people social and economic benefits, yet youth from foster care backgrounds are less likely than their peers to attain a college education, which places this already vulnerable population at higher risk for a lifetime of living on the margins of society. Foster alumni face multiple obstacles to accessing and persisting in higher education. To facilitate and support the success of this frequently overlooked population, professionals in higher education need to understand these obstacles. Little is known about the experiences of youth with foster care backgrounds as they transition into and through higher education. Although existing research has reported the academic, health, and social effects of having been in foster care, little is known about why foster alumni do not persist in higher education. This study used student-development theory, specifically Schlossberg's transition theory, Tinto's theory of student departure, and Bourdieu's work on social and cultural capital to provide a conceptual framework through which to view the lived experiences of youth with foster care backgrounds. Because, for many youths with foster care backgrounds, the pathway to the baccalaureate degree is through a community college, this study examined and explored the transition experiences of foster alumni about to begin or currently enrolled at an Oregon Community College. The study explored the factors that challenge and facilitate foster alumni persistence towards the attainment of a college degree.


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