The University of Houston has announced a $17 million gift from Andy and Andrea Diamond to provide financial, academic, mentoring, and other support for students aging out of foster care.
With the goal of improving success rates — from recruitment to retention and graduation — among students who were previously in the foster care system, the Diamond Family Scholars program will work to build a learning community that provides students with enhanced advising and mentoring services as well as shared living space in Cougar Village, one of the university's residence halls. In addition to scholarships and stipends, the program will cover the costs of room and board, books, and other supplies. The Diamonds' gift also will fund the operational costs of the program, with advising and mentoring services available to all UH students who have aged out of foster care, including those who are not selected for the scholars program.
The State of Texas offers tuition waivers and other assistance to college students who formerly lived in foster care, although not everyone qualifies. Between sixty and a hundred UH students self-identify as graduates of the foster care system each year, and the four-year graduation rate for those students is 37 percent. The new program hopes to achieve a graduation rate of 60 percent after four years, with a longer-term goal of 80 percent.
"We want to create hope for those aging out of foster care," said Andy Diamond. "Their circumstances are beyond their control. Now, however, those who want to help themselves will have an opportunity to do so. Success is defined not by a gift, but rather by hard work and determination."