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4 colleges to test expanded resources for single moms

April 04, 2019

By James Paterson, Education Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Four community colleges have been tapped for a six-year pilot project with the nonprofit Education Design Lab (EDL) to explore innovative ways to help single mothers obtain postsecondary credentials.
  • The participating institutions are: Central New Mexico Community College, in Albuquerque; Delgado Community College, in New Orleans; Monroe Community College, in Rochester, New York; and Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College. Each will be eligible for up to $50,000 to launch their project once it has been approved.
  • With funding from the ECMC Foundation, EDL and the colleges will implement and scale the initiatives and track their results, with the goal of raising attainment among this student group by 30% by 2024.

Dive Insight:

In its announcement, EDL highlighted data from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) showing that there are about 2.1 million single mothers enrolled in postsecondary education, the vast majority of whom are low-income. About 43% worked more than 30 hours each week and 40% said they were likely or very likely to drop out to care for dependents. 

The Center for American Progress has reported that single mothers enrolled in higher education face "nearly insurmountable odds," noting that the IWPR data shows only 8% who enroll will earn a bachelor's or associate degree in six years, though they would earn over the course of their lives about $600,000 more with a four-year degree and $330,000 with an associate credential.

Those higher earnings contribute to long-term economic benefits that outweigh the initial cost of providing assistance, CAP explains.

Other colleges have initiated programs to support student parents, CAP notes, including Portland State University, which offers free drop-in day care, along with several family study spaces and a center on campus that offers extra supplies and toys to occupy children if parents need to bring them to class.

The Aspen Institute recommends a number of strategies for supporting students who are parents. A recent policy paper highlights the work of the Los Angeles Valley College Family Resource Center, a public-private partnership that brings services such as mental health counseling, tutoring, child care and family-friendly spaces to the campus. It also pointed to Lansing Community College's program to provide child care and other supports, such as benefits screening, for student parents.

Policymakers have also addressed the issue. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for instance, recently proposed a plan to offer free child care at community colleges in the state. Congress last year increased funds for the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program from $15 million to $50 million in its support of child care for about 5,000 student parents. 

CAP notes the Program Evaluation and Research Group at Endicott College has developed a toolkit for institutions that hope to improve their support for student parents

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