Ivy Tech selected for national single mothers design challenge

May 17, 2019 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS – Ivy Tech Community College, along with three additional community colleges nationwide, have been selected to participate in the national nonprofit Education Design Lab initiative.

The multi-year design challenge will test and scale strategies to dramatically improve success rates for single mothers over the next six years.

The cohort of institutions include: Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis; Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque, New Mexico.; Delgado Community College, New Orleans; and Monroe Community College, Rochester, New York.

Ivy Tech comprises 19 campuses across the state of Indiana and is the largest singly accredited statewide community college system, and Indiana’s largest public postsecondary institution.


Of the students who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Ivy Tech estimates 72 percent are Pell eligible, 46 percent are first generation, and about 11 percent of students are single mothers.

Under their new strategic plan, Ivy Tech aims to have students earn 50,000 degrees, certificates, and certifications per year, and to increase fall-to-fall retention rates from 50 percent to 60 percent, by 2023. Both of these goals will only be attained by providing additional support to the most vulnerable and at-risk students, including single mothers.

“Ivy Tech’s primary purpose is to engage all students so they successfully launch or expand their careers or educational opportunities,” said Sue Ellspermann, Ivy Tech President. “Single mother students pursuing educational and career goals face significant hurdles, both for themselves and their families. We are thrilled to be a part of this opportunity to build a solution for their needs that can be scaled across our state system.”

Ivy Tech recognizes the issues and barriers single mothers who are trying to achieve their educational and career goals, both for themselves and their families, face. The College is ready to address this urgent need to build a meaningful program that will support completion rates for this critical population. The initial pilot will start at the Indianapolis, Muncie, Lafayette and Sellersburg campuses, and will be scaled across all Ivy Tech campuses over time.

Over the next two years, the Education Design Lab will facilitate a structured process for the institutions to design, implement, and scale interventions that can dramatically improve attainment rates for single mothers attending community college.


Higher education design experts and subject matter experts from the Lab and its network will support the institutions as they test and scale innovations designed to meet the unique needs of single mothers. Upon successful completion of the design year, each institution will be eligible to receive a one-time startup fund (up to $50,000) to support the launch of the pilot.

“We are committed to designing the right supports and helping more single mothers complete their credentials on time,” Ellspermann said. “Through this design challenge, Ivy Tech will be able to further our efforts to better connect campuses to local communities and to create a stronger frontline focus on student success.”

Each year, 2.1 million single mothers enroll in higher education. Research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that nearly 90 percent were low-income, 43 percent worked more than 30 hours a week, and 40 percent said they were likely or very likely to drop out due to dependent care obligations.

IWPR reports that among all women attending community college, 21 percent are single mothers and 44 percent of all single student mothers attend public two-year institutions.

“The majority of today’s undergraduate students are parents or caregivers, adult learners, part-time students, and full-time workers. And single mothers in particular are not well served by the current system,” said Marta Urquilla, Chief Program Officer at the Education Design Lab. “The institutions we have selected for this design challenge are working hard to change that. Each has already demonstrated a unique commitment to improving outcomes for single mothers. Together, they have transformative potential to create and scale new models to reach more women and families across the country.”

Evaluation and dissemination will be a core component of the initiative. The four community colleges will participate in an evaluation to track student outcomes and surface new research and insights for closing achievement gaps among parent learners nationwide.