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Parenthood as a Powerful Motivator: Love Letters from Single Mother Learners

For a single mother learner, her children always come first, but we know that the vast majority of higher ed institutions were not designed with parent learners in mind. Research shows that single mother learners face major barriers to their educational success, such as time poverty, financial strain, and limited childcare options. Nonetheless, their experiences as single moms provide these learners with unique strengths. This past Valentine’s Day, we celebrated the deep love single mother learners have for their children, shedding light on how parenthood can positively impact learner motivation and growth. Read on for single mothers’ quotes and notes about their kids, all from moms enrolled at our Single Moms Success Design Challenge schools.

Through their experiences in parenthood, single mother learners build unique strengths, skills, and motivation that serve them in school and beyond. 



In interviews at our cohort schools, many single mother learners shared that becoming parents boosted their commitment to their own education and career growth. Supporting their families is their top priority, and with each successive education level, single mothers decrease the chances of their families living in poverty.




Many of the single mother learners interviewed in our Understand phase talked about how highly they value serving as positive role models in their children’s lives. Pursuing their education and growing in their careers is a big part of this.



Despite this deep commitment to providing for their families, 72% of single mother college students do not earn a degree or credential within 6 years of enrolling. We’re working on the ground with our cohort of community college partners to redesign learning experiences that will dramatically increase single mother learners’ degree and credential attainment rates.



Redesigning college with single mother learners at the center requires a two-generation approach, with a focus on their children’s well-being, too.



Single mother learners and their children have huge potential to contribute to their local communities and boost economic growth. By designing education models that focus on the experiences and needs of single moms, the community colleges participating in the Single Moms Success Design Challenge – Delgado Community College, Ivy Tech Community College, Central New Mexico Community College, and Monroe Community College – are paving the way for these learners to seamlessly integrate work, school, and life, institutions can. The pilots that these schools will launch in the fall of 2020 aim to dramatically increase single mother learners’ degree and credential attainment rates so that they and their children may thrive. To stay updated on our learnings and progress in the Single Moms Success Design Challenge, subscribe to our quarterly newsletter, Reimagining Single Moms Success!

Do you have experience balancing parenthood with school and/or work? Share your own love letter to your kids about how they’ve shaped your path with the hashtag #StudentParentLove.

Learn More About the Lab’s Work with Single Mother Learners

  1. Single Moms Success Design Challenge
  2.  6 Things You Should Know About Single Mother Learners on Your Campus
  3. Education Design Lab Announces Design Challenge with Community Colleges to Boost Graduation Rates for Single Mothers