Texas would see a big return on investments that help single mothers graduate from college, according to a new report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
Sheila Katz, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Houston, says the economic well-being of Texas' 150,000 college students who are single mothers, and their children, depends on getting a college degree.
Moms who graduate with an associate's degree are 52% less likely to live in poverty than a high school graduate.
"A single mom needs to not just earn a self-sufficient wage to support herself, but she needs to earn enough money to support a child or two," Katz stresses. "So having at least a bachelor's degree is a way for an individual to raise their own earnings."
The report projects that if Texas invests $135 million to support 10% of single moms in college, the state would see a total economic return of $900 million through tax revenues and other savings. Graduation rates also would increase by 47%.
Single mothers with a bachelor's degree in Texas are projected to contribute more than $200,000 more to the state's tax coffers than single moms with just a high school diploma.
Single mothers with an associate's degree are expected to earn $10,000 more per year than single mothers with just a high school education. With a bachelor's degree, they earn $23,000 more.
Report co-author Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, says the data shows there's a strong economic case for up-front investments to help single moms.
"Not only do single mothers themselves stand to gain substantially from earning a college degree, our state and national economies stand to gain as well in the form of dramatically increased tax revenue and reduced spending on public assistance," she points out.
The report's recommendations include increasing access to safe and affordable child care, and connecting more moms with federal programs such as Head Start and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Colleges also can help by including child care costs when calculating financial need, and adjusting attendance policies when moms have to put their children's needs first and miss class.