CHICAGO (WOMENSENEWS)–Imagine walking across the stage at your high school graduation. Your principal has just placed the key to your future in your hands, but as you smile for a picture, you can’t help but feel that this might be the last time in a long time you will receive a diploma.
You are 18 and pregnant. You can’t afford to care for a baby and pay for college, so you’re left with a potentially difficult choice: Keep the baby or get an abortion and focus on your future.
President Barack Obama proposed a plan in the State of the Union address last week that may help many young women in this very predicament to maintain their pregnancy and focus on the future.
The president’s proposal allows for two years of free community college for students enrolled at least half time and earning a 2.5 grade-point average.
These savings can go a long way. The average amount spent on two years at a community college is roughly $8,500, according to National Center for Education 2012 statistics.
This cost is much lower than the average of about $30,000 a year for university. But once you factor in how much is spent on a baby in the first year alone –estimated at about $12,000 per year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–plus the pressure to maintain steady work while parenting a child and the stress of just being a teen, it’s no surprise that less than 2 percent of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30, according to a policy briefing from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
High Drop Out Rate
In 2012, more than 305,000 teens ages 15-19 in the United States became mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While teen pregnancy rates have been decreasing, 50 percent of teen moms drop out of high school and half receive a high school diploma by age 22. So there are still many, many teen mothers who need a chance for a future.
Free community college can provide that chance. In addition to an education, many of these schools offer a flexible class schedule, allowing women to spend more time with their children during the crucial stages of development. Some also offer child care services.
Most teen mothers live in poverty, according to a 2012 study by Melissa Kearney of the University of Maryland. Through getting an education a teen mom opens up a wider possibility of success for her and her child.
Some opponents of Obama’s plan object to the financial resources needed to provide free community college. If the students aren’t paying for it, who is?
"The federal government would cover 75 percent of the average cost of community college. The plan calls for states to pick up the remaining quarter of the tab," according to the proposal outlined by the White House. Now that the credit proposal is off the table, which would have taxed college savings plans that are currently tax-deferred, the government is going to have to do some digging to make the investment in teen moms.
But for a chance to give hundreds of thousands of girls and their children a better chance at a bright future, how could anyone want to stop this progress?
This story is part of Teen Voices at Women’s eNews. In 2013 Women’s eNews retained the 25-year-old magazine Teen Voices to continue and further its mission to improve the world for female teens through media. Teen Voices at Women’s eNews provides online stories and commentary about issues directly affecting female teens around the world, serving as an outlet for young women to share their experiences and views.
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