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''Project Working Mom'' Tackles Undereducation among Single Working Moms

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Ever since she was a little girl, Jeanne Sarmiento wanted to be a lawyer. As she grew older, however, her life took some unexpected turns. After what she calls ''a series of poor choices'' as a young adult, this mother changed her life and became inspired by her children to go to school. Even as a single parent of an infant, Sarmiento was determined to get her degree, and she added credits slowly but surely over the years. Eventually, she graduated with an associate's degree. She is now going back to school for an additional degree and cannot wait to hear her kids yell, ''You did it, Mom! You did it!''

“I can’t wait to hear my children screaming my name from the stands,” says Sarmiento as she imagines graduating with a bachelor’s degree. “They are my inspiration. They are holding my hands as I realize my dream. I will do it. I will do it.”

Sarmiento is one of the more than 8 million single working moms in the United States that find themselves undereducated and, in turn, underemployed. According to the U.S. Census, of the 10 million single moms in the United States, only 16% have a college degree. As a result, only 22% of single working moms earn more than $30,000 per year.



“This is a crisis in America that needs to be addressed,” says Terrence Thomas, chief marketing officer of eLearners.com, who recently launched a campaign, Project Working Mom: Putting Education to Work, to raise awareness and funds to support this underrepresented population. “Single working moms suffer from a lack of federal financial support because of their part-time-student status, which is compounded by their lack of time and confidence to return to school.”

To help other moms in the same situation as Sarmiento, eLearners.com, in collaboration with the online schools American Intercontinental University, DeVry University, and Walden University, will grant at least $2 million in full-ride scholarships to working mothers across the country as part of the Project Working Mom campaign. Additionally, eLearners.com has launched a comprehensive website, http://www.projectworkingmom.com, designed to empower working women to enhance their careers by going back to school.

The site includes self-assessment quizzes to determine readiness for online education, an online community wherein potential students can talk with other moms in similar situations, a database with $15 billion in financial aid opportunities, and numerous articles filled with advice and insight. The funds and the website are designed to help moms overcome barriers involving time, money, and confidence through access to online education opportunities, scholarships, and a community website full of resources.

Time

“Working is a full-time job, and being a mom is also a full-time job, so really you’re working 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Sarmiento. “I would work all day and then go to school at night, plus have homework. Not only was it really hard for me, it was hard for my son.”

Unlike with a traditional campus education, the convenience of online education allows for school to be scheduled around the life of a busy mother. Most online courses have flexible schedules, which allow a working mother to study late at night or on weekends. The need to arrange for childcare, to find parking, or to only attend courses that are delivered during a certain time are eliminated with online education. According to Eduventures, two million students are expected to enroll in fully-online degree programs this year.

Money

Most full-time working mothers need financial aid to go to school part-time; however, financial aid eligibility and awards are typically designed for a traditional campus-based student going to school full-time for 10 months. According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, during the 2003-04 school year, only 54% of students attending part-time and classified as “working poor” received financial aid grants.

“Our goal for Project Working Mom is to raise awareness of the fact that federal financial aid is not fulfilling its obligation to the adult working student, particularly the single working mom,” says Thomas. “It’s a public policy issue that must be addressed.”

Confidence


For most working mothers, the decision to return to school is filled with hope, uncertainty, and anxiety. It is with that in mind that “Project Working Mom” provides working mothers with the resources, support, and confidence they need to become successful online students through a community of other moms and content such as:
  • 8 Steps to Going Back to School
  • How to Pay for College
  • How to Handle the Stress of School, Work, and Motherhood
  • Time Management Tips
  • How to Succeed as an Online Student
  • Testimonials from Inspirational Women
  • Database of $15 Billion in Financial Aid
“Project Working Mom is the long-awaited answer for many women struggling to make ends meet without a college degree,” continues Thomas. “The scholarships, resources, and community that eLearners.com has pulled together will give women the extra boost they need to finally take greater control of their lives.”

To other moms Samiento suggests, “Don’t give up. Going back to school as an adult is a whole different ballgame. I thought I would never get my AA degree. It took me 17 years to get that degree, but with the advent of e-learning, a whole new world has opened up for people like me. The feeling of finishing something you’ve started and finally having that diploma can only be matched by the pride in my children’s voices.”

To apply for a Project Working Mom scholarship, join an online community, or get advice and financial aid information on going back to school online, visit http://www.projectworkingmom.com.
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