Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

Jan Ignash, Ph.D.


College choice, Child welfare, Independent living, Florida, Chafee


This study's purpose was to explore the college choice process for foster care youth who are aging out of Florida's protective services system. The research methodology included three components. First, a survey of the Independent Living Coordinators throughout the state of Florida solicited data regarding participation rates and enrollment patterns among foster care youth. Next, in a meeting setting, a survey was administered to foster care youth, probing the extent to which they considered certain college choice decision factors. Finally, upon completion of the survey, participants remained for a guided focus group discussion to further explore their decision criteria.The results of the Independent Living Coordinator survey indicated that foster care youth enrolled in higher education programs far less frequently than non-foster care youth. The survey also demonstrated that of those foster care youth who participated in postsecondary programs, more than half chose c

ommunity colleges.The survey administered to young persons transitioning out of the child welfare system indicates that, in general, these youth agreed that the four decision factors they considered most strongly when investigating higher education options were increased income potential, independence, a career goal, and the desire for respect or status. The subsequent focus group discussion confirmed that the complexity of the admissions process, one's academic preparedness, and financial considerations were important when deciding whether to attend postsecondary education. The discussion also revealed nine choice factors that were not specifically addressed either on the survey or in the focus group discussion guide, seven of which could be considered prominent. Those factors were: the desire to be the first in the family to obtain a degree, time management challenges, the presence or absence of a partner during the academic pursuit, family members detracting from the goal, whethe

r or not there was a break between secondary and postsecondary education, hardships as motivators, and one's age at the beginning of a postsecondary pursuit. Analysis of the data further revealed that of all the decision factors mentioned either on the survey or in the subsequent discussions, financial concerns top the list.