Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Oystein S. LaBianca

Third Advisor

Jimmy Kijai


Problem. Poverty affects all people groups, but women are systematically poorer than men are. The feminization of poverty aptly defines the plight and consequence of women's poverty. In the United States the current federal mandate requires all able-bodied adults to be gainfully employed. Minimum-wage jobs, for unskilled and untrained workers, do not move poor women and their families out of poverty.

Method. This study used quantitative and qualitative data to explore the impact of the college experience on 56 single parents who had attended a tuition-driven, faith-based college during the 10-year period of 1987-1997. Responses from a mailed questionnaire and focus group narratives presented the subjects' perceptions of changes in their lives as a result of their attending college. The five areas addressed were:(1) employment status and income, (2) involvement in the community, (3) parenting skills, (4) the inner spiritual life, and (5) personal empowerment. The overall impact on participants' lives was noted, as well as a comparison between those who graduated and those who did not. The findings were reported in statistical data, and illustrated in tables as well as in narrative form.

Results. The overall average income increased from a mean of $8,000 before college to a mean of over $20,000 after leaving college. The quantitative results suggest moderate change in other areas studied, with the qualitative piece providing the in-depth story behind the experience. While both graduates and non-graduates reported the positive impact of the college experience, graduates demonstrated increased abilities in many areas.

Conclusion. The increased income was expected as a result of earning a college degree or working toward one. The challenge for single-parent programs, however, is to provide better financial counseling and to limit educational loans to decrease severe indebtedness after a student leaves college. The loan payments in many cases offset the increased revenue earned. The minimal difference between those who graduated and those who did not suggests that the mere experience of going to college enriches lives by providing opportunities not offered outside the college arena.

Subject Area

Single mothers--Education (Higher)


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