Year of Grant: 2016
In the United States, over 30 percent of women attending college have children and 61 percent are raising those children without the support of a partner. Postsecondary education can change a single mother’s life, yet only a third of those enrolled complete their degree.
ECMC Foundation granted funds for Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) to conduct an extensive research study that quantifies the benefit of investing in and supporting postsecondary education attainment among single mothers.
IWPR is a leading think tank pertaining to issues of importance to women. IWPR’s past research makes the case that postsecondary education is the best way for low income women to get out of poverty. This ECMC Foundation funded study, which is the first of its kind, shifted the focus towards single mother students.
Single mother families are increasingly common and are five times as likely as married couple families to live in poverty. Single mother students comprise 11 percent of all undergraduate students and IWPR’s study found that although the number of single mothers attending college is at an all-time high, they face major financial and time-related challenges to completing their degrees. The study show that while attending school, the majority of single mother students work 20 or more hours a week, and spend an average of 9 hours a day on caregiving and household responsibilities.
Research has shown that taking on a significant amount of non-educational work inhibits the completion of a degree. Seven in 10 of single mothers lack a credential or degree after six years. The study also showed that through increased economic output over a lifetime, a single mother student more than pays off the initial investment that helped her graduate through increased tax payments and decreased use of public benefits.
The IWPR team hopes that the findings of the study draws attention to the need for new government policies, attention from college administrators and further philanthropic investment that can help remove current barriers that keep the majority of single mother students from their graduation goals. This support can make education more equitable, strengthen local economies, and disrupt generational poverty.
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