Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Emily Grekin

Second Advisor

Paul Toro


Background: A significant number of children in the US are placed in the child welfare system every year. Among the multiple negative outcomes associated with being in the foster care system is a wide academic achievement gap between foster students and the general population, as well as other disadvantaged groups (e.g. low income). Low academic achievement is particularly pronounced in college. The government and higher education institutions are recognizing these educational gaps and developing specialized programs to address the unique needs of foster students; however, the effectiveness of these programs remains unclear. This study aims at evaluating the effectiveness of one program, the Transition to Independence Program (TIP), in improving academic outcomes for foster students at Wayne State University (WSU) during the first 2 years of the program initiation (2012-2014). Methods: patterns of TIP service utilization (mentoring; financial aid; contact with campus coach and community partners) among 120 individuals who had been wards of the court, and its association with academic outcomes were examined on the following variables: GPA, academic probation status, first year retention, remedial classes, being on track for graduation, and graduation status. Further, TIP students’ performance on those same academic variables was compared to two groups: (1) 120 low income, non-foster care youth, and (2) 26 former foster care youth who did not receive TIP services. Results: 73% of TIP students used at least one service and students who used any program services were 5.7 times more likely to be retained than those who had not. Additionally, TIP students performed better than foster, non-TIP students on the academic variables, and the academic gap with low-income students was reduced. Discussion: TIP is effective in improving academic outcomes for students from the child welfare system. Implications and future directions are discussed.