Housing holds back moms in college
To live independently, single mothers need an education. But to get one, they also need a place to live and child care – needs that colleges are waking up to.
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Expressing disappointment that more colleges do not see this as an opportunity, he adds, "What would we save in all the subsidies of life if we could give them an education and make them independent?"Skip to next paragraph
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Now Endicott and seven other schools with full residential programs for mothers are forming an alliance. "We want the government and other schools to see the need for this and how it can work on a college campus," Ms. Sullivan says. Members include Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa.; College Misericordia in Dallas, Pa.; Texas College in Tyler; Berea College in Kentucky; Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio; College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Neb.; and Saint Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va.
At Baldwin-Wallace, nearly three-quarters of the mothers who start the residential program earn degrees. "People have gone on to become accountants, lawyers, college administrators," says George Richard, director of college relations.
At Berea College, which is unique in that it gives all students full-tuition scholarships, mothers receive financial support, academic support, healthcare, and child care. "In this area of Appalachia, we have a higher incidence of single parents," says Tim Jordan, a spokesman. "When they earn a degree, it breaks the cycle of poverty."
For Katherine Arnoldi, a longtime advocate for college mothers, these schools represent only a beginning. "I'm for opening up access to elite campuses," she says, citing Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others. She considers state colleges the best for mothers, ranking the University of Florida and the University of California, Davis, as her top choices.
Besides the Tufts initiative and the college alliance, there are other burgeoning signs of support.
Ms. Arnoldi has just launched an online magazine, collegemommagazine.com. At American University in Washington, D.C., Danielle Cooney is trying to establish a new sorority for mothers, called Mu Tau Rho, Mothers Together in Parenting. And at Wellesley College, a group called Sisters' Keepers helps students with children. [Editor's note: The original version incorrectly named Ms. Arnoldi's website.]
Elizabeth Audley, a 2006 graduate of Wellesley who works with the group, was a sophomore when she became pregnant. Because Wellesley has no housing for mothers, she and her young daughter spent several months homeless. They bounced from house to house, staying with friends and family.
"The whole thing really opened my eyes," she says. "There are so many barriers that still exist for women who are mothers – professionally and educationally."
Yet even some strong supporters of education for young mothers understand the challenges colleges face. "Institutions should do whatever they can to aid in this process," says Chelsea Toder, a co-president of VOX, a branch of Planned Parenthood. But, she asks, "If you provide housing to undergraduate mothers, how about married students? ... [Or] students who have to care for family members? Everyone has things in their lives that limit them, and it is difficult to figure out when you must alter your own life and when a system should be altered for you."
For Arnoldi, it's clear. "Colleges are going to have to appropriate money for housing on campus for pregnant and parenting students," she says. "There are more of them coming, especially now that students on college campuses are older.... And more day care couldn't hurt."