Community College Women Succeed

Nearly four million student parents attend college every year — most 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 February 2019, Achieving the Dream and the Biden Foundation joined forces to launch Community College Women Succeed, an initiative to identify and promote effective strategies that help adult women students succeed in community college. After the Biden Foundation suspended its operations in April 2019, Achieving the Dream continued its work on the initiative. This work includes engaging with leaders throughout the country to learn about gaps and promising practices, hosting regional focus groups with adult women students and elevating the student voice nationally, reviewing existing research and identifying retention trends, and partnering with a cross-section of stakeholders to create resources.

Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #CCWomenSucceed.


Achieving the Dream’s Community College Women Succeed advisory group, comprising leaders from 12 organizations working to increase racial and economic equity for community college students and their families, has released its first research agenda designed to better understand student parents, increase equitable student success, and provide data to help colleges. 

The research agenda aims to inform and inspire further research on what the advisory group has determined are the most crucial data points for understanding student parents in community colleges. These include gathering more data on who these students are, labor market outcomes, recruitment and enrollment practices, student success strategies, financing education, understanding the experiences of children and community college women, and experiences during the pandemic. 

This research can inform the design of a higher education system capable of closing equity gaps, setting all students up for success.  

See the full research agenda here. (PDF)


Read Insights and Action for Student Parent Success from the November 5, 2020 ATD's Student Parent Success Summit.


View the series of inspiring student stories here.


Meet the leaders who are working with ATD to increase racial and economic equity for community college students and their families. (PDF)


Furthering the Community College Women Succeed Initiative, eight community colleges are participating in a new national three-year project—College Success for Single Mothers—to identify the needs of single mother students on campus and to develop a plan to expand key practices and services to enhance their college and career success. Achieving the Dream, along with the PERG Learning, is a partner to National College Transition Network’s (NCTN) College Success for Single Mothers, which is funded by ECMC Foundation. Seven of the eight colleges selected are part of the Achieving the Dream Network.

  • Broward College, FL (ATD Leader College)
  • Columbus State Community College, OH (ATD Leader College of Distinction)
  • Delaware County Community College, PA (ATD Leader College)
  • Frederick Community College, MD
  • Kingsborough Community College, NY (ATD Leader College of Distinction)
  • Lee College, TX (ATD Leader College of Distinction)
  • Western Technical College, WI (ATD Leader College)
  • University of Hawai’i, Windward Community College, HI (ATD Leader College)

The colleges will convene a cross-functional task force of decision makers, practitioners, and stakeholders to identify the needs of single mother students on campus and develop a plan to expand key practices and services to enhance their college success. NCTN and partners will develop case studies documenting the colleges’ action plans, outcomes, and lessons learned through the project to share with policymakers, funders and investors, and other colleges interested in better addressing the needs of single mother students and parents on campus.

Learn More about Equity In Design for Holistic Student Supports: Increasing Success for Student Mothers at Community Colleges

Download the slides and view the March 20, 2020 webinar on Equity in Design for HSS: Increasing Success for Student Mothers at Community Colleges.




    A growing number of community and technical colleges have made significant commitments to designing and sustaining supportive learning environments that help all students, including student mothers, realize their potential while also integrating the necessary academic, career, and personal supports that make it possible for an increasingly vulnerable student population—many of whom face food and housing insecurity, along with financial and family challenges—to realize their goals. 

    ATD is deeply committed to supporting institutions in developing a holistic student supports approach that embraces the interconnectedness of academic and personal supports to ensure that students receive the supports they need to succeed in college. While there is no one-size fits-all approach to providing these supports, community colleges which have been successful at transforming their institutions to meet the needs of the students they serve have focused on a few common strategies. They have sought to understand the specific needs of their students. They are clear about the problems that they are trying to solve within their unique contexts. And they intentionally design solutions that address those problems head on, rather than implementing incremental, piecemeal solutions and initiatives.

    Download the slides and view the March 20, 2020 webinar



  • This discussion guide profiles the stories of several adult women students charting new paths for themselves and their families. Their experiences both on and off campus will help inform our understanding of the supports and culture that we can develop and enhance on our campuses in order to provide these students the support they need to achieve their educational goals. We invite Achieving the Dream Network colleges to use this guide and accompanying videos to broaden the dialogue on campus about how best to support student parents. You may share the videos featuring critical student voices and add to the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #CCWomenSucceed.

  • Although similar in many ways to other nontraditional students, single mothers bring a unique set of strengths as college students, as well as additional barriers to program completion. Yet, until recently, their particular experiences and  challenges as a distinct student population have not gained the attention or resources required to address their needs effectively. To remedy this, a growing movement has emerged to give voice to student parents and to better understand and address their needs.

    Single mother students have a great deal to offer the colleges that invest in them. This investment is especially worthwhile at a time when enrollments are declining, and colleges and states are striving to create equitable and inclusive educational opportunities for residents as well as meet ambitious college completion and workforce and economic development goals.

    Resource Files

  • Student parents face many challenges, including paying for child care, that can make it difficult for them to complete a degree. The federal government supports student parents through Education's CCAMPIS program, which provides colleges funding for child care services, and federal student aid, which can also help students pay for child care. GAO was asked to provide information on student parents and the federal programs that support these students.

    This report examines, among other objectives, what is known about the characteristics and degree completion of undergraduate students with children; what is known about the CCAMPIS program and how reliable Education's reported outcomes are; and to what extent selected schools publicize the option to increase federal student aid to help pay for child care. GAO analyzed 2009 and 2016 federal student data (the most recent available) and CCAMPIS program performance data, reviewed how the 62 schools that were awarded CCAMPIS grants in 2017 publicized the student aid option to help pay for child care, and reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations and agency documents. GAO interviewed officials from Education and selected schools.

    GAO is making three recommendations to Education to correct its CCAMPIS persistence and graduation rate calculations and to encourage schools to inform students about the option to increase federal student aid to help pay for child care. Education disagreed with GAO's recommendations, but described plans to improve its performance calculations. GAO continues to believe additional actions are warranted.

    Resource Files

    gao_higher_education_aug_2019.pdf4.65 MB
  • The Institute for Women's Policy Research created this report to highlight access to higher education, investing in single mothers' higher education, and student parent success initiative. 

    Two-generation (2Gen) programs and policies create opportunities that allow adults and the children in their lives to build on each other’s successes. Ensuring that both parents and children have access to affordable, high-quality educational opportunities, for example, is a core component of a 2Gen approach. Investments in the postsecondary success of parents with young children can increase attainment of credentials leading to good jobs, bring children the benefits of high-quality learning environments, promote later college-going among children, and improve family economic security across generations.

    Resource Files

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