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Empowering Single Mothers to Pursue Higher Education

Earning a college degree is becoming increasingly crucial for securing economic stability within families, a reality that is especially desired for single mothers. Statistics reveal that single mothers are disproportionately affected by poverty compared to other women. However, pursuing through and attaining a college degree can serve as a transformative pathway for single mothers, offering a multitude of advantages. The effects of a mother's educational achievements extend to her children, significantly impacting their opportunities for success. Studies consistently demonstrate that college-educated mothers not only command higher lifetime earnings but also increased health outcomes as well as increased academic and personal development of her children. Investing in the education of single mothers not only empowers them to gain the potential to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, creating a brighter future for their families and communities alike.

Despite constituting a significant portion, approximately 11%, of all undergraduate students and comprising nearly half of the parent learner population, single mother learners remain largely overlooked in educational initiatives. This is a striking contrast to the 49% of women in college who are not mothers. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research shares the disheartening reality that only 8% of single mother learners manage to attain a two or four year degree within a six-year timeframe. However, it's crucial to recognize that each additional level of education single mothers complete decreases their chances of living in poverty by an impressive 32%. 

There are immense challenges faced by single mothers pursuing higher education, including financial constraints, childcare responsibilities, and limited access to support services. Without access to higher education, a significant majority of single mothers find themselves stuck in low-paying, unstable jobs that fail to provide sustainable income. These jobs offer inadequate wages, minimal benefits, and little to no opportunity for these mothers to enhance their skill sets and break free from the cycle of poverty. By acknowledging the transformative potential of higher education for single mothers and their families, our residents attest the profound impact it can have on their lives, legitimizing the imperative need for support and resources to facilitate their educational journey.

The impact of supporting single mothers through their educational journey cannot be overstated. By empowering single mothers to persist through school and obtain post-secondary degrees, we're not only transforming their individual lives but also positively impacting their families and communities. Education serves as a catalyst for breaking the cycle of poverty, opening doors to better employment opportunities, improved financial stability, and enhanced well-being for single mothers and their children.

In Virginia, single mothers who graduate with an AA degree are 48% less likely to experience poverty compared to high school graduates. Moreover, they accumulate over $265,172 more in lifetime earnings than those with only a high school education. Supporting women in attaining a college degree not only saves Virginia approximately $24,971 in public assistance spending over their lifetime but also results in a significant increase of $66,532 in lifetime tax contributions. This not only fosters economic growth within their communities but also extends its benefits far beyond.

When we prioritize and invest in the educational success of single mothers, we're investing in the future prosperity of society as a whole. By providing support, mentorship, financial assistance, and accessible resources, we can create a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape where single mothers have the opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential, enriching the fabric of our communities in the process.

The Virginia Women and Family Support Center has been on a mission to end homelessness among women and families. As of March 1st, 2024, we have acquired two additional houses, now providing housing for pregnant women and their families in three cities in Northern Virginia: Haymarket, Manassas, and Gainesville. Our service areas encompass homelessness, maternal health, education, mental health, and trauma recovery. We understand the correlation between homelessness and these areas and want to help women and families thrive.

Thank you for being part of our mission to end homelessness for women & families. Your support means the world to us, and we can't wait to unfold the future alongside you. Learn more about our program at and stay in touch with us - we're on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

Your participation in advocating for education for single mothers is life-changing. Whether you choose to volunteer, become a Cycle Breaker, or want to learn more about our mission, your involvement will transform hundreds of lives. Join us in fostering a future where every woman has equitable access to the education and support that she deserves. Together, we can spark change, elevate voices of those who aren't able, and illuminate the path towards a brighter tomorrow.

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