UB receives grant to examine how pandemic policy and aid impacted student-mothers

A young mother sits on the floor holding her squirming baby as she tries to do work on a laptop computer.

Release Date: March 25, 2022

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Portrait of Margaret Sallee.
“Given that research indicates that student-mothers who earn a college degree are more likely to lift themselves and their children out of poverty, it is imperative to understand how particular types of aid and different institutional practices promote student-mothers’ academic persistence and success. ”
Margaret Sallee, associate professor of educational leadership and policy
UB Graduate School of Education

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo will investigate how federal legislation introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic affected the college experiences of low-income student-mothers. 

Led by Margaret Sallee, PhD, associate professor of educational leadership and policy in the UB Graduate School of Education, the study will assess how stimulus funding, the expanded Child Tax Credit and other forms of aid shaped student-mothers’ decisions and participation in higher education. 

The research is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the support of education research. The project is one of a few selected for funding out of hundreds of submissions.

“Student-mothers are a vulnerable population, as they are more likely to live below the poverty line and are less likely to complete a postsecondary certificate or degree,” said Sallee. “As welfare reform in the late 1990s demonstrated, their higher education participation rates are also highly affected by federal legislation.

“Given that research indicates that student-mothers who earn a college degree are more likely to lift themselves and their children out of poverty, it is imperative to understand how particular types of aid and different institutional practices promote student-mothers’ academic persistence and success,” she says.

The investigators will conduct a series of interviews over a year-long period with 80 low-income student-mothers at community colleges and universities in urban and rural settings throughout the nation to understand how their choices and experiences differed based on the institution attended. 

The researchers will also review federal legislation and congressional speeches related to their passage to determine whether the needs of low-income student-mothers were either considered or disregarded.

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