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Friday, December 3, 2021

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Graduates of SDSU's Guardian Scholars program Graduates of SDSU's Guardian Scholars program
 


Innovative Partnership Sustains Support for Former Foster Youth

SDSU is taking an innovative approach to supporting former foster youth students.
By La Monica Everett-Haynes
 

“Our collaborations and partnerships allow us to meet the basic housing and financial needs of our former foster youth, not only in their first year at SDSU, but also throughout their college career.”

San Diego State University and the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) have created a partnership model and fund-development initiative that has generated millions of new government and philanthropic dollars for students in Guardian Scholars, SDSU’s program for former foster youth.

SDSU and SDHC established the partnership in 2015 based on a shared vision of assisting former foster youth to achieve greater financial independence, a major contributor to student retention and success.

Their effort has led to $3 million in new funding—nearly half of which was generated through SDSU’s philanthropic efforts.  

“Our collaborations and partnerships allow us to meet the basic housing and financial needs of our former foster youth, not only in their first year at SDSU, but also throughout their college career,” said Eric Rivera, vice president of Student Affairs.

Leaders from the SDSU Division of Student Affairs presented on this partnership model and outcomes of the collaboration for the second consecutive year during the annual conference of student affairs administrators in higher education, known as NASPA. The team also presented during the American College Personnel Association Convention.

They explained that through the partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, SDSU has been able to address the most critical needs of former foster youth students and offer them year-round housing while significantly reducing their reliance on student loans.

Rivera said the student loan reduction effort is critical, given increasing higher education costs. The Student Affairs leadership team is working toward creating debt-free education for Guardian Scholars, he added.

And they are making progress. Total loan debt for the Guardian Scholars in 2015-2016 was slightly below $255,000, compared to $2,640 during the current academic year—a 99 percent reduction.

The SDSU Guardian Scholars program was created 10 years ago with support from the Alex Smith Foundation. It provides academic and social support, opportunities for leadership and career development and financial support to students who were formerly in foster care, dependents and wards of the court, unaccompanied homeless youth or under legal guardianship. Since 2017, the program has served 239 students, 93 of which are currently enrolled.

There is a strong link between students’ basic needs being met and their ability to be successful. This is especially true for low-income students and former foster youth, the population Guardian Scholars serves, said Miriam Castañon, director of SDSU’s Educational Opportunity Program, which houses the Guardian Scholars Program.

“This is what is meant by research-driven, student-centered programming,” said Castañon, a leadership team member who presented with Rivera at the conferences. “We have effectively built an extension of support to fulfill the basic and most important needs of our students to help ensure they are successful when they are with us and after they graduate.”