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New supports help single moms at community colleges

A group of four community colleges are teaming up to increase the number of single mothers earning degrees and credentials by 30 percent at each institution and collectively providing new support to at least 6,000 single mothers by the summer of 2024.

Their initial efforts are outlined in a new report released today by Education Design Lab, a nonprofit organization that designs and tests college program models to help disadvantaged students.

Central New Mexico Community College, Delgado Community College in New Orleans, Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, and Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, were selected by the Education Design Lab in 2019 to develop and launch pilot programs by fall 2021 focused on support Academic specially designed for single mothers in their institutions. Each college received $50,000 in start-up funds from ECMC, a national institution that aims to improve higher education outcomes among disadvantaged students.

“When I think of this project specifically, I think of re-imagining — the ability to really reimagine what student support looks like for single mothers and for students at scale, knowing that higher education was not designed for single mothers,” Rosario Torres, ECMC Foundation Program Officer, said. said in the report.

According to the report, single mothers make up 10 percent of all undergraduates. Eighty-nine percent of single mothers who attend college are low-income students, and only 28 percent earn a degree or credential within six years. Meanwhile, with each level of education a single mother completes, her likelihood of living in poverty decreases by 32%.

Mary Ann Mata DiMario, a specialist in the Office of Institutional Research at Monroe Community College, believes that developing targeted support to serve single mothers can “bring about intergenerational change” within their families by helping them earn credentials that can lead to higher wages and disrupt cycles of poverty.

“We don’t just help our students parents,” she said. “We help multiple generations. We help parents get into college. This increases the likelihood of their child going to college.”

Teams at each institution collectively interviewed more than 100 single mothers and nearly 70 college faculty and staff to better understand the obstacles single mothers face in their individual institutions.

“They told us what they needed, and then it was up to us to figure out how best to meet those needs,” DiMario said.

The report details a wide range of support for college administrators and faculty designed based on student feedback.

Ivy Tech, for example, launched a pilot program called Ivy Parents Achieve Success with Support, or I.PASS, at four of its affiliates this fall. The program supports a group of single mothers by enrolling them in a free course on Career Planning Strategies for Academic Success. Students can also choose whether to take classes virtually or in person on a weekly basis. The pilot program includes a weekly classroom, with meals and enrichment activities for children, and social events for single parents.

Delgado Community College has created a special orientation course for single mothers, among other forms of specialized support, to help 2,000 mothers pass their academic programs.

Central New Mexico Community College developed the Luna Scholars Program, a $1,500 scholarship for single mothers, that comes with designated coaches to provide guidance on course selection, the transfer process, and building careers and skills. The college also has a moms group on Facebook to create a sense of community among students and provide them with information.

Latoya Turner, an academic coach at Central New Mexico, said in the report that the Facebook group is a “safe environment for single moms going through things.” “During the pandemic, it has been great to get ideas from single mothers on how to approach virtual education for themselves and their children.”

Monroe Community College has partnered with Child Care Council, an organization that connects single mothers with local childcare options.

Kim Mackenzie Mabry, vice president of student services at the college, said the campus has a child care center, but student parents also need these services when the center is closed in the evenings and on weekends. She said one of the students planned to drop out earlier this month because she lacked childcare but eventually stayed with the help of the Child Welfare Board.

McKinsey-Mabry said the work made special sense to her as a single mother who joined Monroe before she became a principal at college.

“Without the support, without that network, and without all the resources for students to be successful, we just hope that single moms like me can be successful,” she said. “But now we’re really putting our time, energy, and effort into the commitment to get those resources and do the research.”

The college also set aside money to provide emergency aid grants of up to $500 to single mothers. About a fifth of its students are fathers, and about 89 percent of single mothers in college are eligible for a Federal Pell Scholarship.

“Finances are a huge problem for our single mothers and the largest number of student fathers we have,” DiMario said. “Things like flat tires, car problems, or being a little late in their rent can completely derail their education.”

Many students with children have suffered financial losses during the pandemic and struggled to juggle work, errands and childcare as schools closed and moved online. However, DeMario noted that one of the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that parents “really thrived in the remote environment, the virtual environment, because it gave them more flexibility,” which is why many of the pilot programs include online or Virtual course and training options.

Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder and CEO of Generation Hope, a nonprofit organization that helps young parents earn college degrees, said she wished she had this support about 20 years ago when she was a teen mom with her 3-month-old daughter in college. of William and Mary.

“I didn’t have things like personal learning and career support,” she said. “I didn’t have an overall college culture at all. I was definitely one of the only students on campus who was going to school and parents at the same time.”

Lewis believes that higher education institutions should collect data on the parenting status of their students so that colleges can “apply a student’s parenting perspective” to all the support and services they provide.

“A lot of times I’ll talk to higher education leaders who say, ‘Oh, we have a childcare center, so we’ve checked the box when it comes to parents of students,'” and that’s like the tip of the iceberg, she said.


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