Graduating college has tons of benefits outside of a higher income. Those benefits are but not limited to, better health, reduced poverty, and better opportunities for the parents and their children. Using that logic, the United States government should be more willing to encourage and support single mothers to complete college and earn a degree. Instead single-parents are struggling to maintain college because they receive very little support while in school. I am going to explore the reasons as to why single mothers have a challenging time graduating from school, what can be done to fix the problems they are facing, and testimonials from women who have graduated despite being mothers.
In the United States there is very little assistance for mothers, and it begins as soon as mothers have their children. Most jobs have a very strict maternity leave rules set in place that forces mothers to come back to work just a month after giving birth because they fear that they will lose their jobs. Maternity leave is typically unpaid so the lack of money coming in propels mothers to quickly reenter the working world. despite, having to pay for child-care it better for them to go back to work. Companies also are known to lower the mother’s wages if they extend their leave. This is one of the main reasons why companies prefer not to hire mothers. It’s expensive on the company’s behalf because they have to find someone else to do the women jobs while they are gone and even when they come back.
Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs there is. One of the most challenging parts of parenting is time-management, feeling like there is never enough time in the day to do everything to do. These are complaints that come directly from married couples. So, imagine the load single-parents have to take on if two-parent households can’t seem to manage. According to the Kids Count Data Center, in 2016 35 percent of children, roughly 24,267,000, in the United States lived in single-parent households, that is triple the number of single-parent households than in the 1960’s. Of the 24,267,000 children, 85% of the children living within a single-parent household were living with their mother’s. In addition, 40 percent of single mothers live in poverty. Some of the are employed, but they are working jobs that pay low wages that typically lack benefits. A study was conducted in the state of New York where 158 single mothers were surveyed and 100 percent of the mothers the graduated with a bachelor’s degree stopped receiving government benefits because they were able to now afford to live without them whereas only 81 percent with associate degrees receiving using government benefits (Semuels). Obtain a degree is said to be the key to not relying on government benefits, then why is it so hard for single mothers to attend and graduating college? I am going to explore multiple reasons as to why single mothers don’t graduate as often and how federal legislation can be the cause.
It is no secret that they key to obtaining a high paying job in today’s society is a college degree, but single mothers barely have time to fit school into their schedules. In-between working and being the sole caretaker for their children its challenging finding time to fit school into the mix. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducted a study where the analyzed how single mothers who are in college spend their time outside of school. In a day, 2 hours are spent of solely taking care of their children, 6 hours are spent watching their children while completing household chores or duties such as cooking or cleaning, 2 hours are spent of doing work around the house. That’s a total of nine hours spent on caring for their children and house, compared to the 2 hours that students without children spend of house work a day. That combined with the lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and lack of a social life causes single-mothers to drop out of college. According to Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, a researcher at IWPR, single mothers in college are doing double and triple duty to make a better life for their families, but too few have the support needed to juggle the competing time demands of college, parenthood, and employment.” To free of some time for single-mothers to attend college child care should be provided by the school. It is very uncommon for college to have child-care centers for students to use, and those schools that do have them have waiting list for their on-campus child-care centers. On average, there are about 80 children on college’s child-care waiting lists. A community college in Rochester, New York called Monroe Community College has on campus child-care for students. Between the years of 2006 and 2014, 30 percent of their students who used the on-campus child-care services were more likely to return polling semesters than the student who did not use on campus child-care.
In addition to time being an issue, the cost to attend college is very expensive. The 2016 census data says that women with a bachelor’s degree earns over 50 of annual income compared to a woman with just a high school diploma (Kim). Continuing to further your education is supposed to be the way to a better life however, welfare reform has caused it to be challenging for single mother to even attend college. In 1996 a law was put into place that created restrictions, such as on time spent at work as well as working restrictions, that recipients had to abide by in order to receive benefits. The initiate was put into place as a way to get people back into the working world. The law is called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Law but it’s known to the public as welfare reform. Since the law has been put into place single-parent households find it more difficult to receive welfare benefits, some states have even put restrictions on food stamps.
Since the introduction of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Law the percentage of single-parent families to receive government benefits dropped by more than 30 percent (Kruvelis and Reichlin Cruse). Single-parent households sometimes find it to be less a hassle to just not receive benefits despite not even having a job. PRAWOL requires that you work or look for work for a certain number of hours a week in order to receive benefits and in some states going to school counts as working but in some states it doesn’t. So single-mothers who decide to attend college a lot of times miss out on the opportunity of receiving benefits for pursuing something that is supposed to put them in a better financial situation. Prior to PRAWOL 649,000 parents that were enrolled in college received welfare cash assistance; today only about 35,000 parents enrolled in college receive welfare cash assistance (Kruvelis and Reichlin Cruse). The drastic change in numbers is a direct effect of welfare reform. Single-parent households, especially single-mothers, began relying on their social network to get by, exchanging favors for favors (Semuels). Their social network includes family, friends, and peers. Entering black into the working world turn out to actually be more expensive than not having a job. Single-family households are faced with paying for childcare, transportation, different insurances. After paying for said things while receiving government benefits leave single-parents with barely enough to get by so it’s more convenient to not receive government benefits. Even the mothers who have jobs are more inclined to be on the verge of losing their jobs due to missing time at work because of family problems.
A reoccurring dilemma at most single-mother students face is the lack of time spent with their children. Single mothers need ample time to attend classes and study for their classes to be successful in school but that is time that is taken away from their children. One cause of the lack of time spent with their children is the pursuit for a better life. They want to give their kids a certain type of life, typically one that wasn’t given to them, so the sacrifice their time with their kids for a better future.
The modern-day college is still not geared toward parents, especially single-parents. It is still designed for what is known as traditional students, students who are young adults and don’t have any children. Single mothers find it very challenging to finish bachelor’s degree programs within 6 years, bachelor’s programs are usually 4 year sometimes 5 years. Only 4 percent of students with children finish a in 6 years (Freeman). Students can only receive financial aid money for up to 6 years, so after year 6 single-parents must pay for their education out of pocket or they must find other alternatives such as grants, scholarships, or private loans. This causes single-parents to be more likely to enroll in a community college. Community colleges are more appealing because they have 2-year programs, which is not as big of a time commitment. They also have a wider range of evening classes, which is very convenient for the parents that work. Obtaining an associate’s degree is not as substantial for the welfare of a family as having a bachelor’s degree because most jobs requires at least a full undergraduate degree for consideration. The dedication required to fulfill a four- year program is, most often, more notable to an employer because it shows dedication to hard work as well as an ability to commit.
I read a story about a single mother named Brandi Davis, she’s a 35-year-old mother with 5 kids. She relies on government benefits to get by and her social network. With very little education, she has a GED, it is difficult for her to find a job that does not pay low wages. The money she made working was barely enough to get by so she tried enrolling into school. However, with webform reform and time constraints it was very hard for her to find any time to go to school so she enrolled into online classes. working, taking care of her kids, and attending school online was a challenge for Davis and led to her failing 2 semesters which resulted in her dropping out (Freeman). She knows that she needs a better education to make more money to the care of her family but it is unrealistic for her actually attend school and successful with the resources she has now.
Although it seems as if the odds are stacked against single-parents, many do graduate. According to, of single mothers’ graduate college with a bachelor’s degree. Ieshia Champs, is a single mother of 5 form Texas. She dropped out of high school and began working at a call center while building her family. In 2009, she lost her home in a fire, her job, and the father of her children due to cancer. She was going through a very hard time with so much happening back to back, she tried to commit suicide (Champs). Iesha praises her pastor for her change in her life ‘Pastor Louise Holman called me one day and said that God told her to tell me to go back to school and get my GED, because that lawyer I wanted to be, I’ll be it!” Iesha went on to enroll into school to obtain her Ged and she earned it. After her GED, she attended Houston Community College and then Texas Southern University where she graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law this pass May. Her graduation pictures that she took with her kids quickly went viral. “said Ieshia. “I took the pictures with my kids because they helped me through school. They’re graduating too” “They would help me review with flash cards while I cooked. They would sit as a mock jury while I taught them what I learned that day. I would sit in my closet and pray and cry because I was overwhelmed and my oldest son, David, would gather his siblings, give them a snack, make them take a bath, gather their school clothes, all to make things easier for me. And I had no knowledge of him doing that until I went to do it!” In her interview she talks about how she afforded college with grants, loans, and multiple part time jobs. She also mentions how much she wanted to give but the outcome would be much greater than her struggle. “I see a woman who at one time knew that the odds were against her. Looking at that picture reminds me of the fact that I didn’t just defy the odds, me and my children destroyed them” (Champs).
Another mother who struggled in law school is 24-year-old Briana Williams. A photo of her also went viral this year. It was a picture of her in her hospital taking a final exam as she was in labor. She jumped right back into the working world just 3 weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Evelyn (Williams, Single mom’s inspiring post about graduating from Harvard Law goes viral). “To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement,” she wrote “some days I was so mentally and emotionally fatigued that I did not leave my bed. I struggled with reliable childcare. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often.” She now is studying to take the bar exam and has a job already lined up at a big law firm in Los Angeles, California. Both mothers have stories of how the sugared while in school and faced the same problems I mentioned above but they persevered through and wants to be an inspiration for mothers that they can too, do the same (Williams, Single mom’s inspiring post about graduating from Harvard Law goes viral).
In conclusion, given that graduating college is directly correlated to higher income, better health, reduced poverty, and better opportunities for parents and their offspring, the encouragement and promotion of completing college for single mothers should be a more of a priority. To achieve this colleges can implement programs to encourage and support single mother during their tenure in college. Programs such as on campus child-care, coaching, scholarships, and support from their peers are just a couple. The federal government received more money for child-care subsidies, through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, the Child Care and Development Block Grant program has since then doubled in funding, which means States can now give student parents more money for child-care. Policy makers and make small changes to policies that changes the work hour requirements so that it’ll be easier for single mothers. Also, colleges can create spaces where students can leave their kids to lessen the burden. There should be a federal grant of scholarship solely for single mothers to lessen the financial burden on the as well. Investing into these women dreams the United States can improves its college graduation rates, especially since women graduate at higher rates than men, which in return will improve single mother lives, their children lives, and therein communities as well.
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