13 facts about the plight of college students with kids

Student parents are more likely to earn higher GPAs but are less likely to complete degrees

Younger college students who are parents need more support from their campus leaders, says a new report that also provides more demographic details about these students.

Understanding who these students are is key if administrators are to offer the right financial, academic and other services these students need to attain their degrees, says the report by Child Trends, a nonprofit advocacy group.

In fact, parenting students are more likely to earn higher GPAs than their classmates without kids but are less likely to complete their degrees, the report says.

Students with kids account for 22% of undergraduate enrollment, and the report zeroes in how administrators can assist parents ages 18-to-24 with on-campus child care, employment opportunities, flexible schedules, and academic and career counseling services.

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The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on child care has put yet more strain on students parents, while the resulting recession means campus employment and job placement services are now even more critical for student parents.

Overall, the research finds that:

  • 53% of student parents have a child under age 6 who requires care to enable the parent to attend class.
  • Only 15% of colleges offer on-campus child care.
  • Just 47% of colleges offer weekend and/or evening classes that give students more scheduling flexibility.

Young Black and Hispanic student parents are more likely to attend for-profit colleges compared to their peers without children and white students with kids.

More than 50% of young Hispanic students with children attend community colleges, which tend to be more affordable and accessible than other institutions.

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Four-year public colleges offer more resources but are more expensive and have stricter admission policies, making then less accessible. For example:

  • 61% of community colleges, compared to 41% of four-year public universities, offer flexible schedules that make classes easier to attend.
  • 49% of public four-year universities offer on-campus child care, compared to 38% of community colleges.
  • 87% of public four-year universities offer job placement services, compared to 79% of community colleges.

Not surprisingly, most students parents are female. And more than half are students of color. Parenting students are also disproportionately first-generation college students, many with low incomes.

Meanwhile, 40% of Black female college students are mothers.

Colleges need more data on parenting students

The report concludes that many institutions needs more funding to support students who are other parents. Schools may also need to better publicize and tailor resources to recruit and retain these students.

Ultimately, more research is needed to determine whether parenting students can access the services that institutions offer and whether those supports are effective.

Colleges  therefore, need to collect better data on their parenting students, the report says.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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