Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Human Services and Education

Document Type




The focus of this study was to explore, through the lens of Pierre Bourdieu’s constructs of habitus, field, and capital, the post-secondary experiences of foster youth who transitioned out of the Louisiana foster care system. Specifically, this comparable multiple case study sought out to understand how cultural, social, and financial capital influenced the post-secondary educational outcomes of foster care alumni as compared to first-generation and continuing-generation students. Seven common themes emerged from the study: predisposing factors towards post-secondary education; values, knowledge, and skills associated with post-secondary education attainment; informal and formal social networks facilitating post-secondary support; financial resources addressing post-secondary costs and concerns; gaps in college expectations and college readiness; and college as a trajectory towards better circumstances. From a deficit perspective, the research study concluded that the foster care alumni had weaker ties to various forms of capital as compared to first-generation and continuing-generation students. However, from an asset perspective, the study demonstrated that foster care alumni employed, to their advantage, the existing cultural wealth capital to successfully navigate the college system. This research study had implications for practitioners within the education and child welfare system. This research also highlighted recommendations for child welfare systems, K-16 educational systems, and independent living programs as it pertained to collaborating efforts to influence foster care alumni to pursue college degrees.

Key Words: foster care alumni, four-year post-secondary education, capital, Bourdieu



Committee Chair

Arbuthnot, Keena