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Community Colleges Strengthen Priority Registration For Foster Students

MODESTO - The California Community Colleges Board of Directors strengthens priority registration privileges to foster care and former foster care students, but limits the privilege to other student groups.

Vice Chancellor of Communication Paul Feist said the academic standing will affect others from getting priority registration.

At Modesto Junior College, sophomore Kristin Robles said she never thought she'd make it to college.

"In my situation, it was moving different places, trying to figure out who can take me in, what family can take me in," said Robles, who has been in foster care since she was 15 years-old.

"Luckily, I finally got my GED last month," said Robles.

Robles gets priority registration, because she's a foster care student. She doesn't have to compete with other students to get the courses she needs to graduate.

California Community Colleges have given foster care students first priority registration, regardless of their grades, academic probation, or if they've met the basic requirements, such as college orientation.

"Because [foster care students] are more likely, if they don't get that, to leave college and not progress in the college area," said Bryan Justin Marks, who runs MJC's BRIDGE program for foster care and low income students. "Basically, only 1 percent of the foster care population even make it into college. So, once they get on campus, we want to do everything we can to keep them."

Other first tier priority groups like veterans, students with disabilities, low income students, or students who had an educational disadvantage, no longer get a free pass on their grades. They can lose first priority registration if their grades slip.

College officials said foster care students need the extra help.

"Their starting line is much different than a student coming in straight out of high school," said Marks. "Many of them have transitioned from high school to high school, so their academic resources are going to be at that basic skills level."

Robles said she can't get financial aid unless she enrolls in 12 credits, which is why priority registration is crucial and takes away some anxiety.

"You don't have that money to pay off school, so financial aid is a big deal," said Robles.

Marks said Robles completed her 15-week BRIDGE Program as the "most improved student," and maintains good grades. Robles said her time in foster care inspired her to go to college to become either an attorney or social worker.

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