United States

Education that Unlocks Thriving Futures for Families

Recognizing that early education and postsecondary education systems in the US are crucial keys to unlocking potential across multiple generations, we support equitable early learning experiences and prosperous education-to-career pathways for parents. We do this through investments in innovative solutions, equity-driven research and advocacy, community-based movement building and people-centered storytelling.

The Current Landscape

History of racist policymaking in the United States continues to shape the systems that form the contours of our lives. Rather than live up to its promise of unlocking opportunity for all, the US education system, as designed, reproduces cycles of poverty, with children in the US less likely to secure higher earnings or more education than their parents compared with children in other high-income countries.

We know that 90% of the brain develops before age 5. This sets the foundation of a person's life, particularly their relationships to others and to learning, before they ever reach formal schooling.

Yet, compared with other OECD countries, the US spends 28 times less on our youngest learners, with children of color and those with lower income backgrounds getting an even smaller slice. Approximately half of American children ages three to five are not on track to be ready for kindergarten. More recent research has shown the impact of early childhood experiences on lifelong learning, behavior, physical, and mental health, with more research needed on children and families from under-resourced communities.

As our youngest learners develop as part of families and communities, these inequities in early childhood development are compounded by intergenerational factors. Nearly 20 million parents are enrolled or have partially completed a college degree or non-degree credential, yet they face inequitable barriers in education systems that weren’t designed for them. They are highly motivated to complete their degrees and gain the skills and knowledge they need for a fulfilling career path that will help them provide stable, healthy lives for their families, but more than half don’t complete the degree they need. One in three Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Indigenous college students are parents, underscoring how supporting student parents is key to addressing racial equity in higher education.

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What If

Imagine a world where all families thrive. Where all children have access to environments and relationships that support their healthy development from the start, and parents enrolled in postsecondary education have the support they need to pursue their educational and career dreams. Where research and policies at federal, state and local levels support our nation’s youngest children to produce more equitable outcomes. Where student parents are acknowledged, invested in and part of a system responsive to their needs. This is the future we imagine and are working toward with our partners.

Our Two-Generation Approach

Early Childhood
Student Parents

The goal in our early childhood work is to support healthy development for more learners in the first five years of life. We do this through the following:

Back Equitable and Representative Research

Ensuring that early childhood researchers are as diverse as the children and the workforce they seek to assess is critical to producing more inclusive research and more equitable outcomes. We support research that can help shift both the ecosystem and research landscape through a body of evidence and evaluation tools that examine early learning experiences through a multicultural and asset-based lens.

Accelerate a Community-Driven Movement in Child Care

The US early childhood “system” is a patchwork of programs that has resulted in significant disparities across race and income. By supporting community-driven approaches for child care and grassroots movements, we hope to assist those fighting for transformative public investment.

Support Education Innovations Focused on Whole Learner and Family Solutions

We support targeted, equity-centered innovation for our littlest learners and their families. Our work emphasizes family-centered design that is needed to build systems that work for all children and families.

Our goal is to improve the postsecondary success of student parents so that the whole family can thrive. Postsecondary success is credential attainment—including industry-recognized certificates and degrees—as well as economic mobility and improved well-being. We do this through the following:

Advance Access through Evidence and Research

Student parents often face a postsecondary system that makes assumptions around who belongs and who doesn’t. The lack of research on what works for student parents and how supporting them creates positive generational outcomes contributes to major gaps in policies and systems. We support solutions that build the evidence and knowledge base to advance the social, political and institutional changes that directly address the barriers student parents face.

Drive Awareness and Action through a Student Parent Movement

While courageous and highly motivated, student parents are often overlooked by the postsecondary system, leading to real implications for their success. One of the reasons for this is because the postsecondary system doesn't collect data on the parenting status of their students, which is something we aim to change as a systemic practice. We focus on opportunities to amplify student parent voices, including building awareness, momentum and collaboration among postsecondary institutions and programs, policymakers and employers.

Spark Postsecondary Education and Connection to Career Innovations

The postsecondary education system is not designed for today’s students, including those nearly twenty million students who are raising children (only four million of them are currently enrolled in a college or university). More attention and innovation is needed. We invest in innovative, scalable solutions that reach student parents around our holistic 6Cs framework. This includes innovations around: affordable and equitable child care, accessible communities of support, decreased completion time, increased access to convenient and flexible solutions, addressing rising costs of postsecondary education, and expanding credentials connected to careers

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