“We received the maximum award possible, which is exciting,” Ruppe said. “This funding was imperative to grow the program; we were restricted in growth until we received some dedicated funding.”
The 2021-23 state budget included a new $750,000 allocation for UW System schools with similar programs, $250,000 the first year and $500,000 the second year.
Universities then applied for the funding, with a maximum $20,000 available the first year and $50,000 the second year. With the timing of the awards, both amounts will be awarded at once.
Even better news is that UW-Stout will be eligible for the $50,000 annually, providing it meets performance outcomes and metrics, allowing the program to plan for growth and improvements.
The UW-Stout program, which began in 2013, was the first in the UW System.
Fostering Success students at UW-Stout helped push for the increased funding, including meeting with Gov. Tony Evers when he visited campus early in 2020.
“We owe a big thank you to our Fostering Success students for this funding. It is a result, in part, of the years of work in advocacy and education by them,” Ruppe said.
“In the state of Wisconsin – even with an estimated family contribution of zero dollars, Pell grant and max student loans – foster youth have an unmet financial need, and many of our students are working full time while carrying a full credit load,” Ruppe said.
With state funding, Fostering Success can allocate private donations entirely for student support, including scholarships, emergency aid and help with their personal needs. Donations to the program can be made through the Fostering Success Program Endowment Fund.
The state support will help provide a dedicated Fostering Success coach, Gail Mentzel, who has been working with students since 2015. She also will be a quarter-time technical consultant for the UW System, supporting campuses that want to start or grow their programs.
National research shows that only 1% to 3% of former foster youth complete any type of secondary degree and that 40% to 50% of youth become homeless 18 months after aging out of care. When supported, former foster youth complete their college degrees at a similar rate as their nonfoster-care peers, an average of 72%, Ruppe said.