Voices of Low-Income Undergraduate Student-Mothers: Experiences of Persisting in College

Jewel C James, Fordham University


Aiming to bridge a gap in the psychological literature as it pertains to giving voice to the experiences of mothers enrolled in college with limited financial resources, this qualitative study sought to contribute to research in the area of persistence. Through the lens of a critical-ideological paradigm, this phenomenological study examined the experiences of twelve low-income student-mothers who are pursuing their undergraduate degree at colleges in the City University of New York. The study focused on the factors that have allowed them to persist in their studies despite challenges and the responsibilities of motherhood. Participants ranged in age from 21 to 46 with varying GPAs ranging from 2.8 to 3.6, had earned at least 24 credits, and had at least one child 13 years old or younger. They were asked open-ended questions which were revised as participants presented new information. The study yielded seven major themes: (1) Intrinsic factors that influence persistence, (2) Extrinsic factors that influence persistence, (3) Higher education as empowerment, (4) Supportive relationships, (5) Achieving school-work-life balance, (6) Transition to college, and (7) Challenges related to immigrant status. These themes were described in depth followed by a discussion of theoretical, clinical, social justice, and research implications.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Counseling Psychology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

James, Jewel C, "Voices of Low-Income Undergraduate Student-Mothers: Experiences of Persisting in College" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10974647.