Each year, 2.1 million single mothers enroll in postsecondary education, representing over 10% of the entire postsecondary population, according to research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Despite their significant presence in the postsecondary sector, single mothers are rarely the focus of campus programming and little is known about the best ways to move the needle for these learners.
The Single Moms Success Design Challenge is a two-year, student-centered design and prototype process led by the Education Design Lab. Through this challenge, four regionally accredited, public community colleges from across the country will design, launch and test scalable interventions aimed at dramatically improving attainment rates for single mothers who seek to obtain a degree or high-quality credential from a community college. The challenge goal is to improve attainment rates of degrees or high-quality credentials for single mother learners by 30% at each institution by 2024. As a portfolio, the cohort will improve education outcomes for a total of 6,000 - 8,000 single mother learners.
The Single Moms Success Design Challenge is generously supported by the ECMC Foundation.
Reimagining Single Moms Success: A Window into the Design Challenge
The Single Moms Success Design Challenge aims to help community colleges address the obstacles faced by single mother learners in the pursuit of degree and credential attainment by pursuing the question:
How might community colleges dramatically improve completion rates for single mothers by intentionally addressing the unique needs of this population?
See how the Lab engaged four leading community colleges in a design experience to reimagine single moms success at our National Convening in June 2019.
For more information about the insights we are gaining from this design challenge, read our blog posts:
Timeline + Critical Milestones
Meet the Cohort
Delgado is committed to creating a “culture of completion” and is working to increase student access, promote lifelong learning, provide career advancement opportunities, and deliver effective, quality services overall to its students.
Louisiana's oldest and largest community college, Delgado is also the state’s second largest educational institution, enrolling over 20,000 students in 2017-18.
It is estimated that 18% of these students are single parents. Delgado is committed to creating a “culture of completion” and is working to increase student access, promote lifelong learning, provide career advancement opportunities, and deliver effective, quality services overall to its students.
Recognizing the relationship between education and poverty, participation in the Single Moms Success Design Challenge will enable the college to develop a program that undergirds completion and/or the attainment of credentials within four years that lead to a sustainable, living wage for single mothers. Delgado will share the learnings of its work with peer institutions within the state of Louisiana that serve single mothers.
"New Orleans has a 48% poverty rate for families led by single mothers, significantly higher than the national average. We know that low wages contribute to this statistic. While Delgado Community College currently offers various supportive services to this population, we are excited for this unique opportunity to focus our efforts on increasing the graduation and degree attainment rates of single mothers. Connecting them to the workforce and increasing their ability to provide for their families is one of the most impactful strategies we can take to help address the unfortunate cycle of poverty in our community."
- Dr. William Wainwright, Interim Chancellor
Comprised of 19 campuses across the state of Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College (Ivy Tech) is the largest singly accredited statewide community college system and Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution, serving nearly 100,000 students on campuses each year.
Of the students who completed a FAFSA, Ivy Tech estimates 72% are Pell eligible, 46% are first generation, and approximately 11% of students are single mothers. Under their new strategic plan, Ivy Tech aims to award 50,000 degrees, certificates, and certifications a year by 2023 and to increase fall-to-fall retention rates from 50% to 60% over the next five years. Both of these goals will only be attained by providing additional support to the most vulnerable and at-risk students, including single mothers.
Ivy Tech recognizes the significant issues and barriers single mothers who are trying to achieve their educational and career goals, both for themselves and their families, face. The college is ready to address this urgent need to build a meaningful program that will support completion rates for this critical population. The initial pilot will start at the Indianapolis, Muncie, Lafayette, and Sellersburg campuses, and will be scaled across all Ivy Tech campuses over time.
“Ivy Tech’s primary purpose is to engage all students so they successfully launch or expand their careers or educational opportunities. Single mother students pursuing educational and career goals face significant hurdles, both for themselves and their families. We are thrilled to be a part of this opportunity to build a solution for their needs that can be scaled across our state system.
We are committed to designing effective supports and helping more single moms complete their credentials on time. Through this design challenge, we will help all of our campuses to create a stronger frontline focus on student success.”
- Dr. Sue Ellspermann, President, Ivy Tech Community College
Monroe Community College (MCC) is a public community college in Monroe County, New York.
It is part of the State University of New York. The college has two campuses: the suburban campus in the town of Brighton, and the Downtown Campus in the City of Rochester. In the 2017-18 academic year, MCC served over 29,000 credit and non-credit students.
Recently, MCC completed research regarding persistence and graduation rates of their student parent population. The internal report, MCC’s Students Who are Parents: Their Unique Characteristics, and How and Why We Should Help Them Succeed (DeMario, M.M. 2018) have given the college a glimpse to understanding the needs of this population. While the college has numerous programs and supports, MCC is ready to pilot more refined and cohesive approaches to best serve the population. By participating in the Single Moms Success Design Challenge, MCC will be able to continue to explore the holistic needs, strengths, academic characteristics and patterns, as well as gaps in support of the single moms population.
“Monroe Community College is committed to transforming student lives and communities in order to drive regional economic development and build global engagement and understanding. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for us. Participating in this design challenge will help support our single mother students transform their lives, the lives of their children, and their community. We are excited to expand to design more targeted services to increase degree attainment among this unique population. ”
- Dr. Anne Kress, President, Monroe Community College
Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) is the largest, most comprehensive community college in New Mexico and the largest higher education institution in the state in terms of undergraduate enrollment.
A designated Hispanic Serving Institution, CNM serves more than 35,000 students per year at eight locations in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. In a recent Aspen Institute student parent survey, CNM learned that about 30% of students are parents.
CNM is committed to tailoring its support services to meet the needs of individual students to help them persevere to graduation and to earn degrees and certificates that will improve their lives. CNM welcomes students from all walks of life, regardless of background, socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or how many children they are supporting. The college has made it a priority to develop a multi-generational approach to serving its community, including identifying strategies and resources to support student parents.
CNM has already taken steps toward creating a more family-friendly campus. CNM’s Governing Board has strengthened campus policies to open up new opportunities for student parents, and the college has also started to lay the groundwork to improve the identification and collection of data for students who are parents. The Single Moms Success Design Challenge is an opportunity for the college to carry forward this momentum and intentionally design solutions for the single mother student population.
“Central New Mexico Community College is very proud to be one of four community colleges selected for the Single Moms Success cohort. We are building our capacity to use data to identify our student parent learners and to inform the ways that we support their success on our campuses. As a college, we are on the cusp of making large-scale changes that can benefit single mother students.
This Single Moms Success Design Challenge will help us advance our goals of expanding access to high-quality services for our students and ultimately our community at large. We look forward to working together and learning from each other to help more single mother learners succeed on our campuses and beyond.”
- Dr. Katharine Winograd, President, Central New Mexico Community College
Community Colleges to Watch
The following institutions presented strong applications to participate in the design challenge. They demonstrated not only a willingness to take on a design-driven innovation initiative to improve outcomes for their single mother learners, but also a readiness to launch and scale pilots within their systems and beyond. The Lab is looking forward to following their progress as they design solutions for the single mother learners on their campuses and to share the learnings from the design challenge to help inform these broader efforts.
We thank these organizations that have inspired us and been critical thought partners in supporting our Single Moms Success Design Challenge.
- US News & World Report
- PR Newswire