By Jillian Berman

Most people who know Mary White wonder when she has time to sleep. It’s a fair question given her schedule.

The 28-year-old spends her Mondays and Tuesdays in class or studying for her nursing program at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, White has eight-hour clinical days and studies when she can find the time. She also picks up at least three 10-hour overnight shifts a week at a group home for psychiatric patients. Add to that taking care of her four-year-old son and it’s hard to see where White finds any spare hours in the day.

“I think I fight though the sleep because I don’t have any time to sleep,” White said. “I just keep telling myself there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Though her experience may seem extreme, White’s hectic life is fairly typical of the 2.1 million single moms in college, a group that’s more than doubled from 1999 to 2012, according to a report published Wednesday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington-based think tank that focuses on women’s economic issues. Single moms now account for more than 11% of college students, up from 7.8% in 1999.

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