In a pilot program to launch in August, PelotonU, an innovative nonprofit that helps more people earn their college degrees online, will start offering child care as well, removing yet another barrier for nontraditional students. This two-generation approach is being led across the region by United Way for Greater Austin, which last month announced $300,000 in funding for this and other programs that aim to lift-up parents and their kids at the same time.
The data around education and workforce illustrates the need for programs like PelotonU’s. Since 2008, higher education enrollment has decreased among minorities, according to the E3 Alliance, which compiles data on Central Texas education. Other E3 data shows that the majority of Central Texas workers are in low-wage jobs. Conversely, its data shows that poverty rates decline with education levels. About 25 percent of adults with less than a high school degree with fall below the poverty line while just 4 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher will experience poverty.
“With a bachelor’s degree, parents can double their income,” said Navid Ladha of PelotonU, “leading to greater family stability and significant increases in their child’s future earnings.”
PelotonU is an Austin-based nonprofit that helps nontraditional students get college degrees through accredited online degree programs. PelotonU vets the online degree programs, then offers in-person support and a physical space for students to take the online classes. PelotonU students tend to be people who seek to change careers, earn more, increase their professional options, and in general improve their quality of life. Students work with an advisor to help keep them on track and are required to come into their office for 12 hours a week to work on their courses.
Almost 180 students have participated in their programs so far, and 42 percent of those have been parents. Eighty-one percent of students enrolled with PelotonU receive their degree compared with 23 percent at four-year colleges and 16 percent at Texas community colleges.
By adding childcare, the program hopes to increase those graduation rates and help the family increase its income. “When a parent decides to pursue a degree, she must then figure out the trade offs of education costs, fitting school into her already busy schedule, and how to ensure her children are well cared for,” said Ladha. “Odds are, this parent will have to enroll in college part-time, giving them just a 16% chance of graduating – and a 10 year path to graduation. But without childcare – from family or a provider – the parent can’t enroll in the first place.”
PelotonU will partner with Open Door Preschool to launch to pilot, open to 10 families starting August 5.
PHOTO: Wendy Delgadillo and her son Trey try out the space that allows parents to complete an online degree while kids enjoy a safe space to play.
NOTE: This article also appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on July 14, 2019.