Investing in Single Mothers' Higher Education

Increasing educational attainment among single mothers is critical to strengthening family well-being and economic security in the United States. Single mothers typically have less education, lower household incomes, and higher poverty rates than other adults. Given that postsecondary education is associated with higher incomes, better health, and improved educational outcomes among children, increasing single mothers’ college attainment can have far-reaching, multigenerational benefits for families and communities. It can also help the United States meet goals for postsecondary credential attainment, help colleges improve student completion and progress toward racial/ethnic equity, contribute to the growing demand for highly educated workers, increase tax contributions, and reduce public benefits spending.

“Investing in Single Mothers’ Education: Costs and Benefits to Individuals, Families, and Society” will analyze the costs and benefits of investing in postsecondary education and related support services for single mothers, in an effort to launch a broader conversation of how supports for single mother families can create more vibrant, successful postsecondary institutions, strengthen local economies, and build opportunity for generations to come.

Advisory Committee

Project Goals

  • Develop a cost-benefit analysis for how increasing investments in single mothers’ college attainment can benefit individuals, families, and society.
  • Disseminate project findings among higher education experts, program leaders, policymakers, & other stakeholders.
  • Improve understanding of the costs and benefits of investing in the supports and resources necessary to increase single mothers’ college attainment.
  • Engage leaders in conversation on investments in systems change that can facilitate single mothers’ success in higher education, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of single mothers attaining higher degrees, increasing children’s success, and reaping benefits for the U.S. economy as a whole.

Research and Outreach

This research study will summarize current knowledge of the benefits of a higher education for individuals, families, and society; estimate the gains in retention and completion that could result from more robust support systems for single student mothers; identify and quantify the costs of greater investments in single mothers’ education, including costs of the type of supports and interventions likely to promote their educational success; and conduct cost-benefit calculations to articulate the potential benefits of devoting economic and educational resources to improving degree attainment among single mothers. IWPR will prepare a report summarizing the study’s methods, findings, and related policy recommendations for investments in single mothers’ postsecondary attainment. An expert advisory committee will provide IWPR with feedback on all aspects of the project, including helping to refine the methodology and ensure the report is clear and policy relevant.

IWPR will also release shorter interim products, such as fact sheets and infographics, to highlight and share findings and raise awareness of the need to invest in single mothers’ access to education

For more on student parents, visit IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative.

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