Although most poor, single mothers today are employed, many of them are working in low-wage jobs, often in positions without benefits . Earning a college degree is typically the best route to a high-paying career but many of these women find it hard to squeeze classes into a schedule already packed with work and childcare. One study of 158 single-mother college students in New York found that 100 percent of the former welfare recipients who earned four-year degrees stopped relying on public-benefit programs, compared to 81 percent of those who got two-year degrees. If earning a degree is so effective in ending poor mothers’ reliance on welfare, why aren’t policymakers making it easier for low-income single moms to go college? The answer is complicated.
Meanwhile, experts suggest that most of America’s postsecondary institutions are ill-equipped to meet the needs of the growing numbers of student parents—which according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research now comprise a whopping 26 percent of the country’s overall undergraduate-student population .(Colleges appear unable to deal with and accommodate poor students in general , including those who are homeless or rely on food stamps , despite their growing numbers.)