The Arnall Family Foundation recently awarded a $200,000, two-year grant to the Oklahoma City Community College Foundation. The grant will allow OCCC to establish the Fostering Higher Education program to support students formerly in foster care.
“Our students come from diverse backgrounds, and many have faced adversity in their path to college,â€ OCCC President Jerry Steward said. “The goal of the Fostering Higher Education program is to give students who have been part of the foster care system every resource they need to succeed. Thanks to the Arnall Family Foundation, we will be able to give our students these opportunities.â€
The OCCC Fostering Higher Education program will address three main areas of support: academic advising, scholarships and targeted financial support. OCCC currently has approximately 400 students formerly in foster care enrolled at the college. Research shows that, on average, former foster students succeed at a rate 8% lower than the overall student success rate. Foster youth aging out of the system also have a much lower median incomeâ€”only $5,450 per year- compared with $50,960 for an associate degree graduate, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
“We are keenly aware of the additional challenges faced by youth who were formerly involved with the foster care system,â€ said Sue Ann Arnall, president of the Arnall Family Foundation. “We are grateful that OCCC is stepping up to address their unique needs through this innovative program.â€
A portion of the grant will fund specialized Student Success Advisors trained specifically to understand the unique needs of students formerly in foster care. In 2019, OCCC revamped the academic advising model to provide more one-on-one support. Student Success Advisors assist students in several areas including academic planning, academic performance, financial well-being, career preparation and personal issues. Advisors follow their assigned students throughout their academic career, as both a resource and an advocate.
The grant will also provide scholarships for tuition, fees and books to eligible incoming first-year students or returning students.
Students formerly in foster care often have two critical areas of financial need: transportation and professional attire. Transportation-related expenses can be a significant barrier for students in attending class and completing their degrees. For students who have completed a degree program at OCCC, a final financial obstacle is appropriate professional clothing for the next chapter of their adult lives. The grant will provide participants financial assistance in these specific areas. To learn more about the Fostering Higher Education program, visit www.occc.edu/foster.
The Oklahoma City Community College Foundation supports the mission of OCCC by engaging the community to provide opportunities for students through increasing philanthropic support and awareness of the college and its activities. For more information about how to support programs like this one at OCCC, visit www.occc.edu/foundation or call 405-682-7591.