Report: More Single Moms Pursuing Higher Ed

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Single moms are among the fastest growing populations on college campuses, but the group’s graduation rates don’t reflect this positive trend.

There are about 2.1 million single moms in college, according to a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Single moms now comprise more than 11 percent of college students, up from 7.8 percent in 1999.

However, only 28 percent of single moms who entered college between 2003 and 2009 completed their degree or certificate program within six years. Compare this to 40 percent of married mothers or 57 percent of women in college without children.

Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, a senior research associate at Institute for Women’s Policy Research and author of the report, told MarketWatch there were several factors that could prevent single moms from graduating.

More than 60 percent of single mothers in college live at or below the federal poverty level. While the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) can help, it can’t fully account for the full cost of raising a child alone or the potential wages lost by focusing on school instead of work.

In addition to physical need, they face “extreme time poverty,” Reichlin Cruse said, as they try to balance work and family, leaving little time for coursework.

The study also found that more than one-third of single moms in college are attending for-profit colleges, which tend to be more expensive and risky.

Despite the odds stacked against them, single mothers don’t seem to be deterred. The report stated that this trend is unlikely change.

“As the importance of higher education has grown we’ve seen more single mothers realize that’s the route that they have to take if they want to provide for their families,” Reichlin Cruse said.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at


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