CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Southern Utah University is looking at a new program to help moms graduate. Twenty-three percent of parents at Southern Utah University are single parents and SUU is taking steps to make sure these students have the same opportunity to finish their degree.
“I was looking at statistics and discovered that there was a huge drop in female graduation rates,” said Kathy Wyatt, Southern Utah University’s First Lady. Her husband is SUU President Scott Wyatt, but Kathy is also a student.
“Now I am going back to school, I’m getting my education in early childhood education,” said Kathy.
Kathy says she never finished years ago, because she decided to work and help support her husband while he finished school, and then she had children.
“I tried to go back to school, and it just was impossible to find people to babysit, and I could not afford daycare,” said Kathy.
As she looked at graduation rates, she realized her story is common. Forty-three percent of students consider leaving SUU before getting a degree because they can’t afford child care, and female graduation rates drop drastically after the age of 25.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. I was OK. But as I see others, many others who are not lucky, my heart goes out to them. They are my heroes,” said Kathy.
The plan for ‘The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child and Family Development Center’ was born.
“We talk about day care often times we think it’s just this little extra benefit for bonus and it’s not … this is critical to the success of our students. It’s critical as a state and community that we have our young women educated,” said Southern Utah University Professor Nina Raynor Barnes.
The center will consider a students income, and offer a sliding scale for costs. Parents will be able to drop children off for just hours rather than paying for the entire day.
“We’re a smaller community. We’re more rural, and yet to take on an initiative like this is very aggressive,” said Raynor Barnes.
“It is definitely needed and it’s time. It’s time,” said Kathy.
“The estimated cost of the center is $2.5 million and it will include classes in parenting, finances and family life. Half the money for the center has been donated but there’s still fundraising to do with the hopes to break ground in 2018.