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While Teen-Parent Graduates Earn More, Disparities Remain | Inside Higher Ed

A report by Generation Hope, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit focused on supporting teen parents through college, found that earning a college degree significantly improves outcomes for young parents.

The report, released today, noted that average annual earnings among teen parents more than doubled after the person earned a degree. The vast majority of respondents earned less than $30,000 when they started college, but the average salary of those working full-time after they graduated exceeded $60,000 per year. Almost a third of teen parents who earned a bachelor’s degree went on to pursue graduate education, as well.

This data is “not only going to be a tool for us in advocating for this population, but hopefully, it’s going to be a really compelling finding for the people who have yet to see the value of really investing in teen parents and their educational training,” said Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder and CEO of Generation Hope. “We want more people really shifting the way that they think about the teen parent population, and I think the data helps to do that.”

The report is based on surveys of 58 out of the 94 graduates who participated in the Generation Hope Scholar Program, which provides teen parents with mentorship, financial assistance and academic support to help them graduate.

The report also highlights some concerning disparities: half of teen parents who graduated college and work full-time accessed some kind of public assistance, such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; 63 percent of Black graduates and 46 percent of Hispanic/Latinx graduates did so.

About 60 percent of survey respondents held student debt, averaging $23,991, upon graduating, which is below the national average of about $31,000, according to the report. But Black teen parent graduates were significantly more likely than their Hispanic/Latinx counterparts to borrow money for college. They also held more than double the amount of debt held by their Hispanic/Latinx peers on average, $29,767 and $13,163, respectively.

Another report released last month by Generation Hope and the Education Trust, a research and advocacy organization, also found that the out-of-pocket costs of going to a public college are two to five times higher for students with children than for low-income students without children.

Lewis said a college degree isn’t “a magic wand” that causes racial disparities to “disappear.”

“It was very interesting to see that while a college degree unlocked higher earnings for teen parents that graduated across race and ethnicity, there are still these systemic barriers to them experiencing economic mobility that really need to be addressed, and certainly at a policy level,” she said. “I think it’s really important for us to invest in college completion for young parents, and at the same time, to invest in policies that really address the racial disparities that exist across all of our systems.”

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