Can $500 a Month Help Single Moms Get a College Degree? A new West Side program aims to find out

AUSTIN — A program for single mothers is testing the kinds of resources young mothers need to succeed in college.

New Moms, an Austin-based nonprofit, developed the Academic Coaching Pilot Project, which will provide 25 mothers enrolled in City Colleges of Chicago with a $500 monthly stipend, technology and school supplies. , childcare, transport assistance and the support of an academic coach.

“It only takes one thing to set someone back. Things like this can help reduce stress and improve their ability to persevere and continue their education,” said Gabrielle Caverl-McNeal, Senior Director of Employment and Academic Coaching at New Moms.

Researchers from the Chapin Hall Center for Children are evaluating the program to examine how academic achievement and graduation rates can improve when mothers have adequate resources and fewer stressors to manage.

“We want to evaluate the program to find out if the strategy is working and why. We can then provide information about what young mothers need to succeed in community colleges nationwide,” said Elissa Gitlow, the study’s lead researcher.

The new moms created the program as a way to tackle the extremely low graduation rates of single mothers, especially those who already face barriers to accessing a quality education. According to a study by the Institute for Women‘s Policy Research, only 8% of single mothers in Illinois graduate from an associate’s degree within six years.

The stipend can be used for anything a mom in school might need, which can “remove barriers that would otherwise get in the way of helping you get that degree,” Caveri-McNeal said.

“They have so many obstacles around housing, food assistance, childcare. These things cost money,” she said. “Their environments are stressful. What makes it less stressful is more money.

Moms will also participate in a series of professional development workshops on parenting, goal setting, financial skills and career preparation.

Academic coaches will help moms navigate their school systems so they can achieve all of their higher education goals. New moms will also cover transit costs, like gas, CTA, and Metra fares; technology such as laptops; and will coordinate with City Colleges to help mothers stay on top of things like registration and fees.

The set of resources aims to put mothers on the path to a solid income. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, single mothers in Illinois with an associate degree are 45% less likely to live in poverty than high school graduates.

“The overall goal is to provide a career path for our mothers to earn enough money to support the family. We want to see how they can get there,” Caveri-McNeal said.

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