Helping college students with kids succeed

Attention to underserved students may be well spent on single mothers, a growing demographic on campus.

The number of single mothers in college more than doubled between the 1999-2000 and 2011-12 academic years, to almost 2.1 million students—or 11 percent of all undergrads—as of 2012, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).

That may come as a surprise to administrators, as most higher ed institutions do not ask if students have children—even though they could find out via routine student surveys, says co-author Barbara Gault, IWPR’s vice president and executive director.

Colleges must be aware of this group to accurately allocate resources toward families’ needs. Community colleges, which have the biggest concentration of single student mothers, should pay particular attention to this faction of students.

“Ironically, well-resourced four-year colleges have relatively more support for student parents—like campus child care or family housing—than is typically seen at community colleges,” says Gault.

Training faculty and staff on how accommodating the time and scheduling demands facing parents is one way higher ed institutions may serve these students, says Gault.

Employing counselors dedicated to supporting students with children, who are knowledgeable about community resources and public benefits, is another. Campuses can also ensure that student parents are stating the full extent of school-related expenses (such as child care and transportation) when applying for financial aid.

Equally important is creating a welcoming campus atmosphere for moms and their kids. This can be achieved by: having toys in advising offices; holding special events for families; dedicating child-friendly spaces for parents to study and meet on campus; offering family housing; and providing child care services, supports and referrals.


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