By Kevin Miller, Ph.D., and Ryan Koch
IWPR has been awarded a one million dollar, three-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve supports that help single parents pursuing postsecondary education finish with a degree or certificate with value in the marketplace. Building on our past work, IWPR’s new project will contribute to the Gates Foundation’s goal to reduce poverty in the United States by doubling the number of young people who earn a postsecondary degree or certificate by the time they reach age 26.
With support from the Gates Foundation, IWPR recently completed a study of policies and practices that effectively support low-income single parents in postsecondary settings, with a focus on child care supports; the full report of IWPR’s findings will be released in June. Though 13 percent of postsecondary students in the United States are single parents and 74 percent of those are women, only half of postsecondary institutions offer on-campus child care. Student parents face many demands on their time and energy—72 percent of student parents work, and single parents are more likely than married parents to work full time—and child care and other supports are vital to ensuring that parents successfully complete their academic programs.
Over the next three years, IWPR will create and nourish a national network of researchers, service-providers, educators, and others invested in student parent success in postsecondary settings. The project and the network will continue to emphasize child care and other supports at community colleges because that is where a disproportionate number of low-income, single parents begin their pursuit of a postsecondary education. IWPR will hold a series of network convenings and strategic sessions, conduct and commission research on student parent supports, and raise awareness among institutional leaders and policymakers on the need for student parent supports and public policies that provide resources for low-income parents to participate in postsecondary education. IWPR will inform practice and inspire investment that helps low-income student parents obtain marketable skills and credentials.