A New Approach Gives Single Mothers a Path to College Graduation
One of the most underserved populations in the higher education community is single mothers.
As The Hetchinger Report details, single mothers have one of the lowest graduation rates in the country, which impedes not only their success but the future success of their children. In Louisville, Kentucky, a new program aims to boost graduation rates among formerly homeless mothers using a combination of around-the-clock counseling and a Section 8 housing program. Rates have been astounding—the group has college graduation rates that exceeds their childless, single, and more affluent peers.
The five complexes housing 500 families over the past decades are known as the Family Scholar Houses. Tenants live an average of three years, and the combined college graduation rates are 86 percent.
“If you meet two or three of people’s challenges, that’s good, but if they have 17 challenges, you’re not going to get very far,” Cathe Dykstra, president and CEO of the program, tells The Hechinger Report. “It’s like dominos – the things they need all lean against each other, and if one goes down, it knocks down everything else.”
Dykstra’s approach is unconventional. She worked with the Louisville Metro Housing Authority to find a developer who helped create low-income apartments, and she did so by making novel use of the Section 8 program, which subsidizes low-income families so that most pay just 30 percent of their income toward housing costs. College students are not usually eligible for Section 8, but nontraditional students could be accepted into the program.
Applicants need to be have full custody of at least minor child, have income below $28,850 for a family of three. Like all Section 8 recipients, they must have limited income — below $28,850 for a family of three, for example.
The asks of active participants in the program are not small. Residents must enroll in a full-time post-secondary program, where they have to earn at least a 2.0 GPA. and they’re obligated to meet with counselors twice monthly. Four hours of monthly community service is also part of the deal.
Though the program requires commitment, it’s in high demand. There are more than 800 families on the waiting list.