The Invisible Struggle: Understanding the Plights and Success Strategies of Low-Income Single Mothers in Undergraduate Programs

Christina R. Matuschka, DePaul University


This qualitative life history illuminates the experiences of four low-income single mother students in their undergraduate degree pursuit. The lenses of radical feminism, Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, Intersectionality, and the concept of Stigma were used to understand the experiences. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and document analysis and captured the interwoven nature of the women’s on and off campus lives by exploring the participant’s perception of the enabling or hindering experiences attributed to their undergraduate degree completion. Using Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, the study findings demonstrate how best to support low-income single mother students. While emotional and financial supports were found to be the largest contributors to degree completion, considering the intersectionality of the women’s identities reminds academic professionals each student brings a unique story to campus. The data also found the perceived threat of stigmatization on campus served to diminish the women’s determined mindset needed to complete their undergraduate degree.