Martina, 24, remembers the kindness of the nurses when she gave birth to her daughter four years ago.
“You don’t find good care too often, and when you find someone who cares about you, it makes a huge difference,” she said in a recent interview.
She would like to be that person for others. For years, Martina took the prerequisites for the nursing program at Santa Fe Community College, slowly progressing in her field as a full-time medical assistant while balancing parenting responsibilities.
For one thing, if Martina graduates as a nurse, she’s considering a pay raise from her current $18 an hour in Santa Fe to nearly $40 an hour, according to local salary estimates from Indeed. .com.
It could be life-changing for her, her husband, their 4-year-old daughter, and the 16-year-old nephew they care for in a house they rent on the south side of Santa Fe.
Raised by a single immigrant mother who “always struggled to make ends meet”, Martina – who said she maintained a top-notch GPA in high school for her mother’s sake – would also fulfill a family dream.
On the other hand, getting there is so expensive and time-consuming that she almost had to stop taking classes this year, Martina said.
Martina is one of 100 student parents under the age of 30 who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level (less than $50,000 for a family of four) at SFCC who were randomly selected from among Hundreds of applicants to participate in the City of Santa Fe’s Guaranteed Income pilot program have received $400 a month since September.
His last name is withheld to comply with research requirements set forth by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, which is studying the pilot program, funded by mayors for a $500,000 guaranteed income initiative.
For Martina’s family, the pilot project put a temporary end to an ongoing battle between late utility payments and making tough decisions between necessities like food ($170 to $300 a week) or child care. children ($200 per week) and payment of school fees (up to $1,000 per term).
“I probably wouldn’t be taking classes right now if I was just going into debt,” she said. “I may not even have a car right now.”
The Institute for Women’s Policy and Research estimated in 2019 that 22% of all college students are parents.
SFCC estimates are higher – with a survey by the Anna Age Eight Institute indicating that 36% of students on campus have a child under 18.
This number likely overlaps with other indicators produced by the 2021 survey, such as the 29% of respondents who needed childcare – two-thirds of whom struggled to find it – or the 34% who said they needed food aid, many of whom did not. to qualify.
Catron Allred, director of the Center of Excellence for Early Years at SFCC, said higher education is rarely set up to help parents trying to get degrees, which she says might not be in place. able to take as many courses as traditional students.
Between being a parent, working and going to school, “little things can derail this process,” she said.
“School is the first thing you can drop out of,” Allred added.
Martina has not given up. The student – who attended the MASTERS program, a dual-credit high school in Santa Fe – has cut classes one or two at a time since graduating from high school, mostly online except for one term when her daughter was born.
Yash Morimoto, vice president of strategy and organizational effectiveness at SFCC, estimates that 75% of SFCC students are part-time – and said it would take them five to eight years to graduate. And many can get lost in the process.
The National Center for Education Statistics puts the part-time retention rate in post-secondary institutions at 43.5%.
In September, the family will welcome another baby and Martina is worried about the future.
“We don’t qualify for any kind of help like food stamps or anything like that, but we struggle to make ends meet every month,” Martina said. “It’s hard to prepare for not having that financial help at some point.”
The City of Santa Fe’s Guaranteed Income Project is also set to end in September unless Mayor Alan Webber can convince city council members to offer to use federal pandemic relief funds for three cycles. annual funding of $500,000 to provide cash payments to new cohorts. SFCC students before the 2023 budget finalized on July 1.
Currently, a web page for the initiative is soliciting donations from the public. Webber hopes community donations could help increase the amount of the monthly payment.
“I think the idea would be to keep adding more people to the program,” Webber said in a recent interview. “If we put some of the [American Rescue Plan] money over a three-year period, would this encourage others to participate? »
Webber hopes the data provided by the Santa Fe pilot and others in the United States will spur the federal government to consider guaranteed income, or at least local lawmakers to consider one statewide.
Through Mayors for Guaranteed Income, cities can design their own pilots. Webber said Santa Fe’s focus on young student parents aims to improve community college student retention and job prospects.
He added: “There is generation after generation of people who are locked in a seemingly unbreakable spiral of not having enough money, not doing well in school, not getting a well-paying job.”
Data from the Santa Fe pilot project is not yet available. SFCC does not have access to the students who receive the funds and if there are any who have since left school or stopped participating in the program.
The first Guaranteed Income pilot was held in Stockton, California, under Mayor Michael Tubbs in 2019; he later founded the Mayors Initiative for Guaranteed Income which Webber joined.
This program began in 2019 and gave 125 participants — 70% women and 37% Hispanics — monthly payments of $500 for 18 months.
Preliminary data from the study showed that in its first full year, the number of participants working full time increased from 28% to 40%. Only a quarter of participants said they could afford an emergency $400 cash or cash equivalent at the start of the program.
The number has grown to 52% per year.
Martina, meanwhile, uses her $400 monthly grant to help pay for her $550 car each month.
“They really helped me out,” she said of the payments. “Without having to negotiate groceries or bills.”
Before that, some of these car payments were paid with a credit card. Martina said she had around $7,000 in debt on her credit card, some of which accrued after recently picking up her nephew from a difficult family situation.
Martina’s pre-program classes at SFCC will wrap up this term.
Next, she will apply to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing through a joint program with the community college and the University of New Mexico.
But that will involve becoming a full-time student, and she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to quit her full-time job to do so after hopefully taking a break to care for her newborn baby this fall.
“I just have to see how life goes,” she said.