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Can $500 A Month Help Single Moms Graduate From College? A New West Side Program Aims To Find Out

A program created by Austin-based New Moms will give 25 single mothers a stipend, academic support and other resources to boost graduation rates.

The New Moms Academic Coaching program will study what kinds of resources can help mothers graduate from college.
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AUSTIN — A program for single moms is testing what kinds of resources young mothers need to be successful in college.

Austin-based nonprofit New Moms developed the Academic Coaching pilot, which will give 25 mothers enrolled at the City Colleges of Chicago a monthly $500 stipend, technology and supplies for school, childcare, transportation assistance and support from an academic coach.

“It only takes one thing to set someone back. Things like this can help reduce stress and enhance the possibility for them to persist and pursue towards their degree,” said Gabrielle Caverl-McNeal, senior director for employment and academic coaching at New Moms.

Researchers at the Chapin Hall Center for Children are evaluating the program to examine how school success and graduation rates may improve when moms are adequately resourced and have fewer stressors to manage.

“We want to evaluate the program to learn whether the strategy works and why. We can then provide insights on what it takes for young mothers to succeed in community colleges nationwide,” said Elissa Gitlow, the principal investigator of the study.

New Moms created the program as a way to tackle the grimly low graduation rates of single moms, especially those already facing barriers to accessing quality education. Only 8 percent of single moms in Illinois complete their associate’s degree within six years, according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The stipend can be used for anything a mom in school might need, which can “eliminate barriers that otherwise would get in your way of helping you pursue that degree,” Caveri-McNeal said.

“They have so many barriers around housing, food assistance, child care. Those things cost money,” she said. “Their environments are stressful. What makes it less stressful is more money.”

Moms will also participate in a professional development workshop series about parenting, goal-setting, financial skills and career preparation.

Academic coaches will help the moms navigate their school systems so they can reach all their higher education goals. New Moms will also cover transit costs, like gas, CTA and Metra fares; technology like laptops; and will coordinate with City Colleges to help the mothers stay on top of things like registration and fees.

The suite of resources are aimed at setting mothers on a path toward earning a solid income. Single moms in Illinois with an associate’s degree are 45 percent less likely to live in poverty than high school graduates, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

“The overall goal is to provide a pathway for careers for our moms to make family-sustaining wages. We want to see how they can get there,” Caveri-McNeal said.

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