New GAO report confirms additional supports needed to help student parents complete college

Silver Spring, MD (September 12, 2019) –  In conjunction with today’s release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Higher Education: More Information Could Help Student Parents Access Additional Federal Student Aid, Achieving the Dream (ATD) joined national partners for a Capitol Hill briefing highlighting key findings from the report. Speakers detailed the challenges of completing a college credential while parenting, and shared opportunities to promote student parent success, reiterating that more needs to be done to help student parents, particularly women, succeed. 

Nearly four million student parents attend college every year, and nearly 70 percent are women. Without adequate support like public benefits, financial aid, or childcare, many mothers never graduate from college. Barriers to retention and completion prevent millions of students from reaching their potential each year.

In her testimony today, Dr. Daria Willis, president of ATD Leader College of Distinction Everett (WA) Community College, recalled her own journey as a student parent. 

"Student parents face incredible odds to attain degree completion. As a former single parent in college, I understand the challenges students face finding time to study, adequate childcare, and the financial resources needed to make ends meet. I applaud the work of Achieving the Dream and other organizations that are dedicated to leveling the playing field, particularly for women, children, and underrepresented populations,” she said.

ATD President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout, who joined Dr. Willis, national partners, and ATD staff today, stressed the importance of the GAO report and on Achieving the Dream’s commitment to helping students, particularly student parents through its new Community College Women Succeed Initiative. 

“Through this initiative, ATD Network colleges are identifying barriers that their student parents face in completing credentials or degrees,” shared Dr. Stout. “We’re supporting our colleges in building their capacity to address and eliminate these barriers, ultimately leading to jobs and careers that provide family sustaining wages and economic and social mobility.”  

In February 2019, with support from the Biden Foundation, Achieving the Dream launched Community College Women Succeed, an initiative to identify and promote effective strategies that help adult women students succeed in community college. When women graduate from college, they, their children, and their families have better economic opportunities. Additional resources on Achieving the Dream’s Community College Women Succeed Initiative, including interviews with student parents from across the nation, are available at

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 277 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing equity gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 44 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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