The Higher Education Option for Poor Women with Children

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Vol: 27, Issue: 4

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Pandey, Shanta; Zhan, Min; Neely-Barnes, Susan; Menon, Natasha
Family, Life Course, and Society; Gender and Sexuality; Social Work
article description
Postsecondary education is the key to exiting from poverty permanently. Yet, the PRWORA allows women only up to 12 months of vocational training while on welfare. This paper focuses on bringing back the importance of investing in the education of poor women, particularly the postsecondary education of poor women with children, to the forefront of the welfare debate. In this paper we review federal and state level welfare policies toward postsecondary education of poor women with children. Some states are interpreting federal welfare policy strictly and allowing only up to 12 months of vocational training while on welfare. Other states allow poor women attending postsecondary education to count class hours and homework hours toward the work participation requirement. Support services-childcarea nd transportation-tow omen attending college vary from state to state. Services for welfare mothers who wish to go on to college are severely inadequate. We argue that federal and state policies should be designed to encourage poor women to complete two- and fouryear college degrees because education of women is associated with better economic and social returns for women, children, families and society at large. We propose that welfare policies should encourage women's college education by providing support services and by stopping the five-years clock for those attending college. In addition, programs such as Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) and AmeriCorps should be expanded to increase postsecondary education opportunities for poor women.