Giving Compass' Take:

• Four community colleges will implement pilot support programs for single mothers so that they can obtain a postsecondary degree. 

• Some colleges already offer support systems to students with children. How can philanthropy play a role in this aspect of higher education?

• Read about the employment challenges for low-income working students. 

Four community colleges have been tapped for a six-year pilot project with the nonprofit Education Design Lab (EDL) to explore innovative ways to help single mothers obtain postsecondary credentials.

The participating institutions are: Central New Mexico Community College, in Albuquerque; Delgado Community College, in New Orleans; Monroe Community College, in Rochester, New York; and Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College. Each will be eligible for up to $50,000 to launch their project once it has been approved.

In its announcement, EDL highlighted data from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) showing that there are about 2.1 million single mothers enrolled in postsecondary education, the vast majority of whom are low-income. About 43% worked more than 30 hours each week and 40% said they were likely or very likely to drop out to care for dependents.

The Center for American Progress has reported that single mothers enrolled in higher education face "nearly insurmountable odds," noting that the IWPR data shows only 8% who enroll will earn a bachelor's or associate degree in six years, though they would earn over the course of their lives about $600,000 more with a four-year degree and $330,000 with an associate credential.

Those higher earnings contribute to long-term economic benefits that outweigh the initial cost of providing assistance, CAP explains.

Other colleges have initiated programs to support student parents, CAP notes, including Portland State University, which offers free drop-in day care, along with several family study spaces and a center on campus that offers extra supplies and toys to occupy children if parents need to bring them to class.

Policymakers have also addressed the issue. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for instance, recently proposed a plan to offer free child care at community colleges in the state.

Read the full article about colleges supporting single moms by James Paterson at Education Dive.