Strand: Best practices for equitable learning environments
Time: Thursday, April 19, 2018 from 8:15 – 9:30 am
This session will explore the policy, institutional, and programmatic shifts that can improve equity in single mothers’ access to and success in higher education. Findings from a recent Institute for Women’s Policy Research study will highlight the quantifiable benefits of investing in single mothers’ educational attainment, and Generation Hope, a nonprofit serving teen mothers in college in the DC area, will discuss challenges, opportunities, and strategies for promoting single mother success.
Lindsey Reichlin Cruse
Senior Research Associate
Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Biography: Lindsey Reichlin Cruse is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Lindsey manages Student Parent Success Initiative projects, which promote awareness of, access to, and success in higher education for college students who are parents. She leads the Student Parent Policy Working Group and was a contributing researcher for IWPR’s Job Training Success Project. Lindsey has presented at numerous events & conferences, including serving as a panelist at UNDP’s Third Global Forum on Business for Gender Equality and as a keynote speaker at the 2017 Student Parent Success Symposium. An expert on access to postsecondary education, Lindsey has been quoted in several outlets including The Washington Post, Refinery29, the National Journal, and Market Watch. Prior to IWPR, Lindsey held positions at the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health and at Global Policy Solutions. Lindsey has an MA from Columbia University and a BA from UCLA.
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Nicole Lynn Lewis
CEO and Founder
Biography: Nicole Lynn Lewis serves as the CEO of Generation Hope, an organization which she founded in 2010. Nicole founded Generation Hope because, after completing college as a teen mother despite tremendous obstacles, she wanted to help other teen parents earn their degrees and achieve stable and successful futures. In just 8 years, Nicole has created a truly unique and thriving organization that is gaining national attention for its focus on college completion for teen parents. Generation Hope now serves more than 100 teen parents attending college in the DC region, has celebrated 30 teen parent graduates, and has provided more than $400,000 in tuition assistance. As a testament to her work, Nicole was named a 2014 CNN Hero, a 2017 Minority Business Leader by the Washington Business Journal, and a “Top 40 Under 40” by Washingtonian Magazine. Nicole holds a MA in Social Policy and Communication from George Mason University and a BA in English from the College of William & Mary.
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Single mother families are increasingly common, and they have much lower incomes and higher poverty rates than other family types. Given the association of higher education with increased earnings, higher employment rates, improved well-being, and better outcomes for children, increasing single mothers’ college attainment can have far-reaching benefits for families and communities. Yet, despite the transformative power of a postsecondary credential, single mothers have disproportionately low rates of attainment: in 2015, just 31 percent of single mothers ages 25 and older held a college degree, compared with over half of comparable married mothers. With single mothers growing as a proportion of U.S. undergraduate students—their number in college doubled between 1999 and 2012—investing in supports that can help them tackle the major time-related and financial challenges they face is becoming increasingly important. Supportive services like affordable, high-quality child care, case management/coaching, mentorship, and targeted financial assistance can improve single mothers’ ability to enter and complete college, increase their economic security, and lead to multigenerational benefits.
This session will begin by describing the single student mother population. According to the most recent data, more than one quarter of women in college have children and most (60 percent) are raising children without the support of a spouse or partner. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) will share its analysis of the 2.1 million single mothers enrolled in college, including their racial/ethnic makeup, their enrollment patterns, their financial insecurity, and the caregiving considerations and time constraints that complicate their persistence in college. IWPR’s presentation will highlight key equity issues surrounding college-going single mothers, including the fact that women of color are especially likely to be raising children on their own while pursuing postsecondary education, and that single mothers are disproportionately likely to enroll in for-profit institutions—which cost more than traditional public institutions, lead students to take out significant debt, and often do not result in credentials that lead to high-quality jobs.
IWPR will also share findings from its recent study quantifying the costs and benefits for families, communities, and society of investing in single mothers’ educational attainment. These findings include the earnings gains that stem from single mothers’ attainment of two- and four-year degrees; the relative benefits for single mothers of earning a college credential compared with the costs associated with attending college (including lost wages); the impact of degree attainment on single mother family poverty; and a breakdown of the types and costs of supports that could promote single mothers’ educational success. These findings will help the audience understand and articulate the case for devoting greater economic and educational resources to improving degree attainment among single mothers.
Generation Hope, a community-based nonprofit focused on increasing college achievement among teen parents in the DC area, will then discuss challenges, opportunities, and effective strategies for promoting single mother family success. Nicole Lynn Lewis, Founder and CEO of Generation Hope, will share the organization’s two-generation model for promoting the educational success of teen mothers through targeted scholarships, case management, and mentorship. She will provide recommendations for campus- and community-based programs who serve or are interested in serving single mothers in college, and share her insights and lessons learned from her work helping teen parent families escape poverty and achieve prosperity through education. Ms. Lewis will also discuss how policy and institutional practices and systems could be improved to facilitate this population’s ability to enter college and persist to a degree.
The last 20 minutes will be open for audience participation, giving attendees the chance to ask questions and engage with the panelists and each other. Speakers will ask the audience questions as well, to better understand attendees’ interest in single student mothers, learn about the challenges they face and strategies they use for serving this population, and hear their insight and recommendations for helping single mother families achieve prosperity. Audience members will receive a handout that identifies supports and service delivery strategies that can address single mothers’ needs, and provides recommendations for promoting their educational success at the institutional, programmatic, and policy levels, in addition to a brief self-assessment tool developed by IWPR to determine how institutions and programs can become more family-friendly.