Single mothers face abundant challenges. Motherhood in general is difficult – making sure children are well fed, clothed, educated and happy is just the start. Add holding down a job, maintaining a home (washing dishes, doing laundry, dusting, etc.) and completing an education of their own to that equation and it can be downright exhausting!
According to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, single student mothers are making up larger and larger percentages of the college population. The number of single mothers in college more than doubled between 1990 and 2012 – which is 11 percent of all undergraduates. (IWPR 2017)
Other key findings from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research report (2012) include:
- “30 percent of single student mothers attend for-profit institutions – triple the rate of women students without children.” (IWPR 2017)
- “4 in 10 women at two-year colleges say they are likely or very likely to drop out of school due to their dependent care obligations.” (IWPR 2017)
- “Single mothers who do graduate have higher levels of debt than both their nonparent and married mother peers.” (IWPR 2017)
- “70 percent of student-parents who defaulted [on student loans] were single.” (Campbell, 2017)
These staggering statistics transparently show that single mothers have the odds stacked against them from the start of their college career. Enrolling in more expensive for-profit educational institutions, having significant time demands between career, children and school, and the costs associated with added child care all impact a student mother’s ability to finish a degree.
Those who do not finish their degree face a precarious situation – they have student loans but no degree – so their chances of defaulting increase when opportunities for better employment decrease without that higher education.
Why college attainment for single moms is important
Research has shown that graduating from college can increase lifetime earning potential. The median lifetime earnings for a person graduating with a high school diploma is around $1,304,000, For someone who has earned a bachelor’s degree, lifetime earnings increases to $2,268,000 – a difference of $964,000! (Carnevale, Rose, and Cheah, 2009)
Not only do those who graduate find higher paying employment, they also have access to other important benefits, such as healthcare and retirement plans.
A mother who attains a degree also increases the chances of her children attending college as well.
In addition to the benefits listed above, keeping current on student loans and paying them in a timely manner boosts credit scores – which could be beneficial at a later time when (and if) a loan borrower seeks financing for a home or car.
How to help single moms in their quest for a college degree
Now that we know how the numbers add up, we must ask ourselves how we (both ourselves as individuals along with educational institutions and the government) can assist student mothers in starting and finishing their college degree.
Do you know someone who is a single mother who is struggling to handle a job, maintain her home and finish her education? Here are some ways to lend a hand:
- Offer to help with child care while she takes classes
- Cook and deliver a meal (or two) to her home
- Give her a gift certificate to get her house cleaned
- Transport her kids to sporting events or extracurricular activities
- Anonymously pay her electric bill or offer to pay for a semester of books
One existing federal program for child care is the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program or CCAMPIS. This is a program where educational institutions apply for a grant that provides campus-based child care services for students. Low-income parents (who are eligible to receive federal Pell Grants) may be able to take advantage of the program at those locations that offer it.
Income-Based Repayment programs, more scholarships for single mother households, peer support groups and child-friendly environments on campuses are also ways to assist those students who may need additional support. (IWPR 2017)
Are you a single parent who is currently attending college or who has graduated from college? What are some ways that people have helped you along the way? Feel free to share your tips, comments or suggestions below!