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Self Sufficiency Program

A page within Self Sufficiency Program

SSP logo
SSP students in the classroom

Thinking about college? Wondering where to start or restart your education journey?

Take the first step with the Self Sufficiency Program (SSP)!

SSP is a free, pre-college program that provides participants an opportunity to explore academic and career interests in a supportive setting. 

Offered each fall and spring semester, the 12-week class meets Tuesday evenings on the UWL campus. Free childcare is available on-site.

Spring 2024

The Fall 2024 session of SSP starts the week of September 23. Apply now!

The Program

The purpose of SSP is to improve access to higher education for single-parents and other adults and help them prepare for college success.   

SSP has the following course goals:

  • Familiarize students with college programs and options, applications and admissions procedures, and financial aid and scholarship opportunities at UWL, Viterbo University and Western Technical College. 
  • Engage and support students in building skills in critical thinking, close-reading, reflective and academic writing, and math.
  • Assist students in developing an individualized educational plan to reach their education and career goals.  

Upon completing SSP, students may be eligible for SSP's Locally Grown Scholarships to support their first semesters at UWL, Viterbo University, Western Technical College or other area colleges.   

SSP is a community engagement program of the Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  

What's New at SSP?

From the Director's desk...

Spring/Summer 2024

As the academic year ends, I send an enthusiastic “Congratulations!” to all students. Whether you have completed your degree or your first college semester, be sure to celebrate. Of course, attend to the immediate feelings of relief and exhaustion. That extra hour of sleep and a calendar empty of due-dates may even feel like a vacation! Don’t let anyone tell you being a college student is easy or not “real work.”

Back to school is for grown-ups too!

Parenting students who make up 22% of all undergrads know well the effort and hours required to complete each course and every semester. It isn’t the course content, assignments, or technology that threaten to overwhelm. I’ve heard more than one student say, “Learning shouldn’t be so much fun!” They light up when talking about loving a class or a professor. They even tell me they feel a bit selfish being in college! Their enthusiasm must contribute to the higher GPAs on average parenting students earn over traditionally-aged college students (Nelson et al., 2013; Reichlin Cruse et al., 2019).

Why, then, do less than 20% of student parents finish associate or bachelor degrees within 6 years? Being a motivated and engaged learner should lead to degrees, right?

A recent study (Conway et al, 2021) explores the impact of time poverty for parenting students. Defined as “having insufficient time for studying and completing college work,” this study makes it clear time poverty is a critical equity issue. Compared to non-parenting students, the study finds these students, and particularly mothers:

  • have significantly less time for their studies
  • have lower quality of study time (studying in the presence of children)
  • are more likely to enroll part-time (slowing degree progression)

Of course, income and wealth disparities make a huge difference in degree attainment. Decades of defunding education and the virtual lack of childcare funding have created significant challenges. Effective “time management” skills can help, but they are inadequate for the task. What will help is understanding time poverty as an issue worthy of attention and research. Interventions, strategies advocacy, and policy changes follow. A promising strategy is urged by Conway et al to include measures of time poverty in the calculation of student financial aid award. Unpaid work is as important as paid work in determining a student’s ability to persist to a degree.

Recent improvements to Title IX law, clarify the responsibilities to students. Two new federal laws, the PUMP Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, offer needed protections at worksites.

“How will I be able to do everything?” is SSP participants’ top question every session. SSP provides time to assess the demands of class sessions and studying, explore strategies and supports, and calculate financial and time trade-offs. Most importantly, students learn from each other, and the experts – the student parents and other adults who have made it work.

To learn more:

Andrea Hansen, SSP Director

Many thanks!

The Self-Sufficiency Program administrators and the SSP Locally Grown Scholarship Fund committee are committed to a policy of providing equal opportunity to all qualified persons regardless of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, political affiliation, physical disability, mental disability, veterans status, or membership in the national guard, state defense force or any other reserve component of the military forces of the United States or this state.

‘I know I can do it’

SSP prepares adult students to be successful!

Campus Connection (news story)

Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

Alisha Morgan's inspirational journey was empowered by UW-La Crosse Self-Sufficiency Program <More>

Melissa Touche, '20


"It is not an exaggeration to say SSP changed my life. SSP was instrumental in helping explore my educational goal. It has been the hands that lifted, encouraged, and empowered me to successfully completing my bachelor’s degree."

Learn more about Melissa Touche, '20 

SSP student teaching in class
SSP student childcare volunteers

Thank you to our friends, donors, and sister institutions!

Women's Fund of Greater La Crosse LogoAAUW La Crosse Branch

Coulee Parenting Connection Logo

UWL Foundation Logo

Viterbo University Logo

WTC Logo