We are thrilled to announce we have received a second grant from the Walmart Foundation. This $650,000 grant will expand our Pathways to Opportunity grantmaking initiative, with a more intense focus on increasing the completion rates of low income women enrolled in community colleges. The goal of this grantmaking initiative is to investigate, disseminate, and then fund the most effective strategies to increase the completion rate of low-income women at Mississippi community colleges.
The Women’s Foundation is working closely with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) in Washington, DC to better understand the barriers to community college completion for low income women. IWPR is collecting survey data from Mississippi female community college students to better understand the barriers to completion for Mississippi women. In addition, IWPR and WFM will produce a policy brief (to be released in May 2014) that includes an overview of the socioeconomic characteristic of low income women enrolled in community colleges statewide; a scan of available supports (child care, transportation, health care, financial aid); results from the survey; and recommendations of promising practices to increase the completion rate.
WFM will use the Walmart Foundation grant to award two year grants to nonprofits and community colleges that are addressing the unique needs of low income women in community college. We will start accepting proposals in May 2014 when we release the policy brief. Please sign up for our emails to make sure you’re notified of our grantmaking deadlines (you can sign up for emails at the very bottom of our home page).
Why Focus on Community College Students?
Access to post-secondary education is one of the most effective strategies to lift families out of poverty. WFM is focusing on grantmaking for community college women because low-income single mothers beginning or returning to higher education overwhelmingly choose to pursue their goals at community colleges.
Despite the large number of women enrolled in community colleges statewide, community colleges struggle with how to increase the low completion rates of students. WFM envisions women graduating from the community college with an in-demand credential or degree that leads to a living wage. This funding initiative will be a first step in a long-term plan to increase the completion rate and, as a result, the economic security of Mississippi women.
Consider these facts:
- A majority of community college students are economically disadvantaged, as defined by receiving Pell grants and other income/work supports.
- 61% of women who have children after enrolling in community college do not finish their education.
- Approximately 20% of community college students are single parents.
- 12 million students attend community colleges every year, but nearly half drop out. Retention and completion is a major challenge for community colleges.
- In fact, the portion of students entering Mississippi’s community colleges that graduate within 4 years is 18%. The data mean that 1 in 5 community college students that start courses ultimately complete a degree 4 years later.
- Colleges that offer student supports such as employment services, income and work supports, and financial services, have higher retention rates than colleges that do not offer these supports. Unfortunately, most community colleges do not offer comprehensive student supports.