Boosting completions of single mothers

By Matthew Dembicki

Four large community colleges are leading a pilot program to dramatically increase the completion rates of single mother students.

The national nonprofit Education Design Lab has selected four community colleges — Central New Mexico Community College,  Delgado Community College  (Louisiana), Monroe Community College (New York) and Ivy Tech Community College (Indiana) — to test and scale strategies to improve completion rates of single mothers by 30 percent at each college by 2024.

“A college credential is critical to improving the economic mobility of millions of single mothers and their families,” said Peter Taylor, president of ECMC Foundation, which is backing the program.

However, single mothers are typically not well-served in higher education, noted Marta Urquilla, chief program officer at the Education Design Lab.

“The institutions we have selected for this design challenge are working hard to change that,” she said. “Each has already demonstrated a unique commitment to improving outcomes for single mothers. Together, they have transformative potential to create and scale new models to reach more women and families across the country.”

Of the 2.1 million single mothers who enroll each year in college, nearly 90 percent are low-income, 43 percent worked more than 30 hours a week, and 40 percent said they were likely or very likely to drop out due to dependent care obligations, according to a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The number of single mothers in college more than doubled between 1999 and 2012, according to IWPR, with the largest share of them — 44 percent — enrolled in community colleges. Among women in community college, 21 percent are single mothers, compared to 7 percent of women in four-year institutions.

Higher education design experts and subject matter experts from the Lab and its network will support the institutions as they test and scale innovations designed to meet the needs of single mothers. Upon successful completion of the design year, each college will be eligible to receive a one-time startup grant of up to $50,000 to support the launch of the pilot.

This article originally appeared in CC Daily.

Matthew Dembicki

edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.