By Jillian Berman

Student parents are often motivated to attend college out of a desire to create a better life for themselves and their families. But many single mothers in college may be at risk of spending a lot of money on their schooling with little payoff, new research indicates.

About 30% of single mothers in college attend for-profit schools, according to an analysis of government data from the 2011-2012 academic year released Thursday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think tank focused on women’s economic issues. Though single mothers make up just 11% of the overall college population, they account for 26% of students at for-profit colleges, the study found. The number of parents at for-profit colleges has also increased over the past several years, previous IWPR research found.

The disproportionate share of single mothers enrolled in for-profit colleges is troubling, said Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, a senior research associate at IWPR and the author of the brief. Federal regulators and state law-enforcement officials have accused for-profit colleges of charging exceptionally high tuition for degrees that often provide little value in the labor market.

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