Marcia Layton Turner
Endicott College, Beverly, Massachusetts
Endicott College

Endicott College recognized that earning a college degree is a challenge many young, single parents simply cannot overcome without support.

The school, located 20 miles north of Boston, has been giving them a boost with its Keys to Degrees for more than 20 years.

The goal was to positively impact some discouraging statistics—that less than 3 percent of teen parents will complete a bachelor’s degree program before age 30 and only 17.4 percent of students-parents enrolled in a baccalaureate program will complete their degree within six years.

Success data points

74—Percentage of Keys students (all women) who have earned a bachelor’s degree since its inception. Keys to Degrees welcomes both male and female applicants, though only two men have enrolled.

92—Percentage of recent graduates (since 2013) who are now employed in a field relevant to their undergraduate major, or in a related graduate degree program.

The method? Educating two generations at once.

The four-year program—designed for single parents between the ages of 18 and 24—provides tuition assistance (in the form of scholarships and a variety of federal, state and local grants and loans), year-round apartment-style campus housing, childcare placement and subsidies, and support services.

Participants are housed together and all children are enrolled full-time in on-campus early childhood education programs.

Students first must apply and be admitted to Endicott College, and then state an interest in the Keys to Degrees program, says Autumn Green, director of the national centers for student parent programs at Endicott College.

“We try to look for students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to attend college,” says Green.

Keys to Degrees students work closely with the program director, who serves as an advisor and also coordinates workshops on parenting skills, counseling sessions and a mentoring program where single parents share their experiences and successes.

A subsidized babysitting service cares for children during evenings and provides backup care on weekends. But the program is not free.

“Students get a lot from the program but they’re also giving a lot to the program,” says Green. “They’re making an investment in their future. They have skin in the game.”

On an annual basis, that equates to between $8,500 to $12,500 for tuition and fees per student, which includes year-round housing, childcare and support services. During the summer and winter break, Keys to Degrees participants can stay on campus and take classes at no cost to get ahead on credits.

Green also oversees the national replication of the program—Portland State, Eastern Michigan, Dillard and St. Catherine universities also now have Keys to Degrees programs.