New Moms has launched an Academic Coaching program to challenge systemic barriers preventing many young moms from completing college degrees.
One in five college students in the United States are parents, and often schools cannot fully provide the kind of support young parents need to ensure success. Currently, only 8% of single mother students in Illinois complete an Associate degree within six years, compared to 60% of students without children, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Additionally, one in three black women in college — who are already underrepresented in higher education because of systemic racism and historic barriers — are single parents. New Moms’ Academic Coaching program was created to address this disparity.
“We believe intentional investment in the postsecondary persistence and achievement of young moms will have lasting positive influences on families and communities,” said Gabrielle Caverl-McNeal, Senior Director of Employment and Academic Coaching at New Moms.
New Moms serves young moms and children who are experiencing poverty and/or homelessness. When they come to us, 97% are experiencing extreme poverty. Approximately 50% have dropped out of school, while 50% have high school diploma/GEDs, and are eligible for postsecondary education. 100% report trauma histories. Their grit and determination have carried them this far, but unstable situations, toxic stress, and systemic barriers limit their abilities to handle the small things, and develop long-term habits that will lead to success.
Postsecondary degree completion has outsized return on investment (ROI). Single mothers in Illinois holding an Associate or Bachelor degree are 45% & 67% less likely, respectively, to live in poverty than high school graduates.
This is why ECMC Foundation, which is funding a significant portion of the pilot program, is making this investment in the postsecondary persistence, anticipating that this will lead to more mothers of color graduating from college and working in family-sustaining, living wage jobs. This pilot program is also funded in part by the State of Illinois.
Together with the City Colleges of Chicago, New Moms is piloting a three-year program, with the goal of increasing degree attainment for young moms in Chicagoland. The results of this project will have important implications for the national conversation on how to support young moms pursuing degrees and will be evaluated by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
“City Colleges of Chicago is dedicated to eliminating barriers and addressing inequities that impact access to higher education for underserved communities,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. “We are grateful to partner with New Moms in the mission to increase entry to college. The new Academic Coaching program is a powerful example of our shared investment in supporting young parents as they pursue their education.”
The pilot will recruit 25 Chicagoland young moms pursuing a long-term academic certificate or Associate degree. Participants will work with coaches to select the accredited institution of whose schedules, course offerings, and credentialing align with their goals. Most have selected City Colleges of Chicago, a partner of New Moms. During the program, each participant will receive monthly support, including a $500 monthly stipend while enrolled in the program, individual and group coaching, as well as transportation and childcare support. Young moms will remain enrolled in the program for up to 3 years, or until they complete their degree, with additional follow-up support offered post-graduation.
“Research shows that holistic support, including financial support, is one of the most effective ways to improve outcomes for low-income students,” Gabrielle Caverl-McNeal said. “Student-parents facing scarcity and poverty achieve their goals more frequently when their environments are less stressful, when they have the support of positive relationships, and when they have developed core life skills.”
These brain and behavioral science-based principles — reducing sources of stress, building responsive relationships, and strengthening core life skills — provide the basis for the Academic Coaching program.
“New Moms has successfully integrated insights from brain and behavioral science into our existing programs and we’ve seen the positive impact on young moms and their children,” said Melanie Garrett, Chief Program Officer at New Moms. “These include increased feelings of belonging and connection, economic mobility, and family well-being.”
Evaluation of this project will have significant implications for the fields of postsecondary persistence and workforce development. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago will conduct a formative evaluation of the pilot, which will include the collection and analysis of qualitative data. This will be done in two rounds of interviews with a sample that includes both program participants and young mothers who are not enrolled in the program and with program staff and community college personnel. They will analyze the data and present their findings in an interim report and a final report which will be made publicly available.
New Moms and its partners are excited to begin this three year journey and look forward to contributing to the national conversation on how to support young moms as they pursue degrees.
ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation with a mission to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes — especially among underserved populations — through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under ECMC Group (www.ecmcgroup.org) enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas: College Success and Career Readiness; and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential.
Chapin Hall is an independent policy research center at the University of Chicago that provides public and private decision-makers with rigorous research and achievable solutions to support them in improving the lives of children, families, and communities. Chapin Hall partners with policymakers, practitioners, and philanthropists at the forefront of research and policy development by applying a unique blend of scientific research, real-world experience, and policy expertise to construct actionable information, practical tools, and, ultimately, positive change for children, youth, and families. Established in 1985, Chapin Hall’s areas of research include child welfare systems, community capacity to support children and families, and youth homelessness. For more information about Chapin Hall, visit www.chapinhall.org or @Chapin_Hall.
Posted on January 11, 2022
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