Passports Out Of Poverty: Raising Access To Higher Education For Care Leavers In Australia.
McNamara, Patricia. Harvey, Andrew.
Published: February 2019
Children and Youth Services Review
Vol. 97 , p. 85-93
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Access to education has long been associated with lifelong wellbeing and poverty prevention. Indeed, education is often described as a ‘passport out of poverty’. For care leavers, higher education access can create powerful social and economic protection, but poverty often creates both material and cultural barriers to this access. The research described here explored the access and achievement of care leavers in Australian higher education. The study employed mixed methods, including a literature review; examination of national data sets; an online survey of public universities; and interviews with out-of-home care (OOHC) providers. Here we present qualitative findings from the online survey and interviews which captured the perspectives of senior representatives within both the higher education and community service sectors. These findings reveal the role that childhood poverty, trauma and disadvantage play in affecting education outcomes for many growing up in OOHC. Learning deficits and disabilities clearly affect academic preparedness for higher education. Poverty can also limit the ability to afford the costs of university study and reduce the capacity to visualise and construct an educational future. Educational disadvantage is often combined with limited institutional support for care leavers, exacerbating their marginalisation from higher education. Our findings highlight both a paucity of Australian research in this area and the disturbingly small number of care leavers who successfully transition to higher education. Raising university access requires specific measures to redress poverty, including financial support for care leavers beyond the age of 18, and study bursaries, fee remission and accommodation support. More broadly, cultural change is needed to address the consequences of poverty, which often include low educational expectations and horizons. (Author abstract)
poverty; disadvantaged children; socioeconomic influences; Australia; foster adolescents; independent living; aging out; postsecondary education; barriers; childhood trauma; disabilities