CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Texas A&M University System and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on Thursday announced a new pilot program focused on supporting and improving higher education success for young adults in extended foster care. This is the first such partnership between DFPS and a university system.
Through this unique pilot program, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville will administer Supervised Independent Living (SIL) services for eligible students who were previously in foster care and have opted to remain in or return to extended foster care. SIL is a voluntary extended foster care program that provides financial and other supports to young adults up to age 21 as they transition to independent living.
“It is with great pride that The Texas A&M University System is taking the lead in helping these deserving students as they work toward a brighter future,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “We thank DFPS for working with us on this important initiative, and we look forward to eventually implementing it throughout the System.”
“More than anything, today is about making real the hopes and dreams of our young people who have been in foster care” said Henry L. “Hank” Whitman, DFPS Commissioner. “Through this innovative program, the Texas A&M System is helping pave the way so that these very special students can begin to realize their potential.”
Since it was established in 2013, SIL has enabled participants to receive services while attending college. However, this is the first time that a public university system has coordinated directly with DFPS and enabled universities to handle the administration of the program for their students. Individuals who were formerly in foster care are already eligible for tuition and fee waivers at public universities in Texas, but SIL provides additional support that helps reduce the financial burdens and confusion associated with living independently for the first time.
“Finding ways to remove barriers to our students’ success is so important, and this pilot program allows us to provide an excellent education in a very supportive environment,” said A&M-Corpus Christi President Kelly Quintanilla. “It allows us to provide a home for these students while also covering the cost of housing, meals and other living expenses that might otherwise keep them from pursuing a degree. We are excited to be a part of it and of their future.”
“As an institution dedicated to expanding opportunity for Texans, we are honored to be a part of this program,” said A&M-Kingsville President Steven Tallant. “We hope that all former and current foster students know that they are welcome and have a place to call home on our campus.”
Tymothy Belseth, an advocate for foster care youth and a research coordinator with the Texas Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing at the University of Texas at Austin, also expressed support for the program. Belseth experienced the state’s foster care system firsthand as a teenager before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree from A&M-Kingsville and a master’s degree in political science from Texas State University.
“The new SIL program in the Texas A&M System will improve educational outcomes for youth in foster care,” Belseth said. “Foster youth who feel welcome on campus, have a supportive network, and have resources available to them will be more likely to graduate college and have better upward mobility. I am honored to work with DFPS and my alma mater on this effort.”
The new SIL program will officially become available for extended foster students on the A&M-Corpus Christi and A&M-Kingsville campuses starting in the fall semester of 2018.
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.7 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $972 million in FY 2016 and helped drive the state’s economy.
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