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College life is more challenging for these students in particular

This week, we aired a State of Opportunity special, Life after High School. The show focused on the options open to young people trying to figure out how to build a future for themselves. We spent some time talking about the challenge and expense of attending a university or college.

But for young people in the foster care system or students who have experienced homelessness, that leap to college is even bigger.

Joi Rencher is a social worker and independent living coordinator with Eastern Michigan University’s Mentorship, Access, Guidance in College – or Magic – program. It supports students on campus who have experienced foster care or homeless. 

Rencher says beyond the financial considerations, the students she works with also worry about feeling like they belong on a college campus:

They feel like nobody is going to understand what they're going through, where they come from. They look at other college students and they see them getting care packages in the mail or parents coming to visit them during homecoming or picking them up for the weekend or wishing them happy birthday and they just don't want to feel different. They're not just focusing on paying for school they're focusing on can I afford to eat?

Rencher says additional support is needed on campus for students who have come out of the foster care system, or who have experienced homelessness. She also says faculty and university administrators need more education about the challenges these students face, and how those issues may show up in the classroom. 

Here's our conversation: