Editorial

Community colleges in good position to help single moms

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A new report confirms what weíve always thought; youíre seriously missing out if you donít take advantage of our local community college.

What are you missing? Well, if youíre a single mother, youíll make more than a million dollars over your lifetime if you obtain a bachelorís degree. Thatís more than half a million dollars more than a woman who has only a high school education.

The Public News Service, an advocacy news service, says the report indicates that if Nebraska would invest $7 million to send 10% of single moms to college, the state would see a total economic return of $51 million through tax revenues and other savings. Graduation rates also would increase by 47%, they say, and single moms are 50% less likely to live in poverty than a high school graduate.

ďThere are clear economic benefits to making sure that these women have the opportunity to succeed, and a little bit of an investment in their success will result in long-term benefits for all of us,Ē said Reichlin Cruse, director of the study.

This yearís short, 60-day session of the Legislature is unlikely to result in additional funding for such programs, on the heels of expanded Medicaid and other issues.

But the study makes some points:

-- Single mothers with a bachelor's degree in Nebraska are projected to contribute $195,000 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 $7,500 more per year than single mothers with just a high school education. With a bachelor's degree, they earn $18,000 more.

"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," Cruse says.

The group calls for better 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 should also help by including child care costs when calculating financial need, and adjusting attendance policies when moms have to put their kids' needs first and miss class, the study concludes.

Any increase in public funding for such causes has to be balanced with the likelihood it will be effective, of course. Nothing will be gained by shifting to taxpayers any student debt that does not result in good-paying jobs.

Funding should be directed toward training fields where workers are actually in demand, and tailoring programs to meet that goal would be a challenge in itself.

But itís clear Mid-Plains Community College, with its traditionally low costs and campuses in North Platte, McCook, Broken Bow, Imperial, Ogallala and Valentine, is in position to play an important role.

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