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‘The students are deserving’: Fostering Success expands to more UW campuses this fall

Program helps students who were in foster care or experiencing homelessness get a college education

Entrance to UW-La Crosse Student Support Service office.
The entrance to UW-La Crosse’s Student Support Service Office. Mike Lieurance/UW-La Crosse University Marketing & Communications

For students living in foster care, or those who’ve experienced homelessness, navigating college can be daunting. But a program to support those students is expanding across the University of Wisconsin System — in hopes of increasing school success and retention.

Fostering Success began at UW-Stout in 2013. The program is designed to support students by offering help navigating financial aid, academic advising and tutoring. Angie Ruppe, director of the program at UW-Stout, said Fostering Success is important because “the students are deserving.”

“We know it’s effective and it works. We see the GPAs coming up. We see the retention rising. Students just need a little bit of extra support. And with that, they can be extremely successful,” she added.

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Ruppe has been directing Fostering Success since 2018. Since then, students involved in the UW-Stout program have seen their cumulative GPA rise from 2.5 to 3.23. The retention rate for students in the program also rose to 72 percent, Ruppe said. That’s higher than the most recent retention rate of 69 percent for UW System students between their freshman and sophomore years.

Now a handful of other UW System schools will be able to offer the program this fall after the 2021-23 state budget allocated $750,000 for UW System schools to support Fostering Success.

About a half-dozen campuses have applied for $70,000 grants that include $20,000 for start-up costs and $50,000 to help fund the program. In addition to helping students navigate college, some program participants may also receive a welcome basket with dormitory essentials like laundry supplies and bedding.

Stacy Narcotta-Welp is the director of Student Support Services at UW-La Crosse. The university is one of a handful of campuses offering Fostering Success for the first time this fall.

Narcotta-Welp said the program will help students from low-incomes figure out how to pay for college.

“A lot of times, there are funding sources out there for this group of students, but navigating how to access that becomes a barrier,” she said.

UW-La Crosse expects to assist at least 35 students in the first year of the program.

Ruppe, from UW-Stout, hopes the influx of funding helps expand the program, which has steadily grown from 15 to 45 students since it began. Prior to this year, Fostering Success at UW-Stout had been run on donations and local grants with an annual budget of about $15,000. Ruppe said she hopes to preserve private donations for student emergency aid and scholarships.

“I’m hoping to grow the program — not only identifying new students, but also reaching out to students that are already here that haven’t heard about us yet who may benefit from the resources and support,” she said.

Other campuses starting the Fostering Success program this fall include UW-Milwaukee, UW-Whitewater, UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire.

Schools that meet a specific set of outcomes will be able to continue applying for $50,000 annually to help fund the program.