Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

Vicki J. Rosser

Second Committee Member

Doris L. Watson

Third Committee Member

Lori Olafson

Fourth Committee Member

Shannon Smith

Number of Pages



This study gave voice to the issues, needs, and concerns of economically disadvantaged single mothers and determined the motivational and institutional factors that helped lead them to their successful completion of a community college degree or certificate program while at the same time coping with the challenges of financially surviving on meager public welfare assistance, raising their children, and meeting welfare-mandated work activity requirements. While American society has a long tradition of regarding higher education as a means of achieving long-term financial security and self-sufficiency, current welfare policy unfortunately adds additional obstacles for welfare recipients who may be motivated to rise above the low-wage welfare-to-work employment opportunities that only promote continued dependence on social welfare programs despite full-time employment.

The potential of higher education as a means by which financially disadvantaged single mothers may achieve independence and become productive members of society was addressed in this study along with the study's primary focus of determining the major influences and motivations in the lives of single mothers receiving public assistance that led to their success in completing their higher education and/or training as well as determining characteristics of the institutional programs that helped lead to the educational success of these women. Literature encompassing an historic review of public welfare policy, the prevalence of poverty in the United States, and the value of higher education provided the background premises for this study, while critical feminist constructivist theory provided the theoretical framework helping to explain the societal contexts wherein women are caught in a conflictual relationship between capitalism (the work ethic) and patriarchy (the family ethic) and how welfare policy has evolved within the confines of societal norms and values.

This study's research design was qualitative, consisting of six in-depth case studies utilizing an open-ended interview approach delving into the early developmental, educational, and social experiences of the single-mother participants in addition to their recent welfare program, work, family, and community college experiences. Concentration was placed on ascertaining the underlying motivational and enabling factors that led to their successful completion of their community college educational program.


Community college students; Feminism; Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act; Poor; Public welfare; Re-entry; Self-reliance; Single mothers; Welfare; Women


Education | Social Welfare | Women's Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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