By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. However, for many Southwest Florida women, earning a college degree is not within reach. More than 600,000 women call Southwest Florida — Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties — their home. According to our recent report on The Status of Women in Florida by County: Poverty & Opportunity, fewer than 150,000 of these women — less than 1 in 5 — over the age of 25 have earned a college degree. The education attainment gap for those who grow up in households with constrained incomes continues to widen. Our country’s economic potential hangs in the balance.
Women in Florida have higher rates of poverty and lower rates of bachelor’s and master’s degrees than U.S. women overall. However, the three fastest-growing occupations-STEM, healthcare professional, and community services – also have the highest demand for post-secondary education and training.
A woman’s education after high school will directly influence her ability to make a livable wage. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.05 per hour. But basic economic security rates suggest that a single adult in Florida should earn about $14.52 an hour (with work benefits) to afford basic needs and savings. A woman who does not receive work benefits would need to earn about $22.56 per hour. Unfortunately, without higher education and training, it’s difficult for women to find jobs with wages that would allow them to afford basic needs.
Our Matched Savings for Education program aims to boost the economic clout of Southwest Florida women. We offer income challenged women the opportunity to save a portion of their paycheck for education. A woman who participates in our program can save for education and receive matching funds from the Women’s Foundation. When she reaches a $500 savings goal and completes financial literacy training, the Women’s Foundation of Southwest Florida will match her savings with another $4,000. These funds go straight to her student account at the college or career school of her choice and can be used to cover tuition, fees, and books.
With our communities’ economic potential hanging in the balance, we must allocate more resources to closing the college-completion gap. We must also ensure hard-working women have resources available to secure economic stability for themselves and their families. Click HERE to see how you can help SWFL women go to school. Do you know anyone who wants to get an education? Learn more about our Matched Savings for Education Program Here.