Investments in single mother students benefit all of us, not just from billions in increased tax revenue, but also in the future health and well-being of the next generation. Ensuring that single mothers can pursue their educational dreams also produces measurable progress on racial and gender equity, not just in higher education, but in society as a whole, reducing poverty and boosting economic mobility.
Disproportionately women of color, nearly half of single mother students attend community colleges, where they pursue degrees in health care, information technology, and other middle-skill sectors that have the potential to fuel the country’s economic engine. Single mother students inherently understand the life-changing impact of a college degree and are motivated to succeed for themselves and their families. Single mothers with an associate degree are nearly half as likely to live in poverty as those with a high school diploma and earn more than $250,000 more over their lifetimes. Student parents are also talented, having higher GPAs on average than students without children.
Despite their talent and determination, just 11% of single mother students complete the life-changing associate degree they want. A growing body of research and real-life stories underscore that higher education was not designed for the success of single mother students, who face significantly higher financial and time constraints than students without children. Yet, single mothers are more likely than any other group of women to have some college, but no degree. We know that with a bit of additional support, single mother students succeed.
As the only national funder focused on single mother students, ECMC Foundation’s initial investments since 2016 have laid the groundwork for needed systemic change. In 2021, ECMC Foundation announced a new five-year, $10 million commitment to increase the share of single mother students who attain an associate degree within six years of enrolling at a community college to 25%.
Grants are made through the Single Mother Student Success Initiative will continue to support equity-centered research, direct service and technical assistance efforts targeting community colleges and organizations supporting community college students. The initiative’s guiding focus is on efforts that increase the share of single mother students who attain an associate degree within six years of enrolling at a community college to 25%. Currently, the initiative sits at the testing and learning phase as the Foundation considers whether to widen and/or expand its focus; an evaluator will support the development of metrics and refinement of the initiative’s point of view in 2023.