New analysis finds that single mothers face massive time challenges to college success, and campus child care may triple graduation rates

May 10, 2018

Contact: Jennifer Clark | 202-785-5100 |

Washington, DC— Single mothers in college full-time spend the equivalent of a full work day on child care and housework, and more time in paid employment than women students without children, according to a new time use analysis released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).  They also spend less time on critical self-care activities such as sleep and exercise, and have less time for studying.

Single mothers who earn college degrees gain a lifetime of economic security—and represent 11 percent of all undergraduates, or 2.1 million students. Less than a third of single mothers complete their degrees, however, which is a much lower rate than for non-parenting students.  IWPR’s new analysis illustrates the crushing time demands that can interfere with college success for single mothers.

“As we approach Mother’s Day and college commencement season, we often recognize the dedication of time and energy that mothers and graduating seniors have made. 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,” said IWPR Senior Research Associate Lindsey Reichlin Cruse.

The paper includes new analysis of student parent data from Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, NY, showing that parents of young children who used MCC’s on-campus child care center had an on-time graduation rate that was more than three times higher than similar parents who did not access the center.

The briefing paper includes policy recommendations for improving access to child care and other supports that may help single mothers address their time demands while completing a degree.

“Every college should be able to point student parents to child care resources in the community, and those with campus children’s centers should work hard to retain that critical resource for student success. Campuses must be prepared to welcome multiple generations and understand the full array of life demands facing independent students,” noted IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences. IWPR also works in affiliation with the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University.