What are the keys to the success of student parents?

Some colleges are providing specialized housing, babysitting and job training
By: | September 13, 2019
Parents in Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative complete at twice the rate of other students.Parents in Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative complete at twice the rate of other students.

College students who are parents should receive more public assistance to pay for quality childcare, which can cost an average $11,000 a year—which can be more than tuition, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found in an August report to Congress.

The federal government can provide more support through a range of existing programs. The U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, for instance, provides childcare funding for low-income students. The Department of Health and Human Services offers similar assistance, the report says.

Assistance is urgently needed because the report also found that:

  • More than 1 in 5 undergraduates were raising children
  • About half of student parents left school without a degree
  • 55% of student parents were single parents, and 44% were working full-time
  • Undergraduate parents had fewer financial resources to fund their education

Student parents face incredible odds to attain degree completion,” Daria Willis, president of Everett Community College in Washington, said during a Congressional hearing on the report on Sept. 12. “As a former single parent in college, I understand the challenges students face finding time to study, adequate childcare, and the financial resources needed to make ends meet.”


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In February 2019, the nonprofit Achieving the Dream (ATD) launched Community College Women Succeed to develop and promote persistence and graduation strategies.

“ATD Network colleges are identifying barriers that their student parents face in completing credentials or degrees,” Karen A. Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, said at the same Congressional hearing. “We’re supporting our colleges in building their capacity to address and eliminate these barriers, ultimately leading to jobs and careers that provide family sustaining wages and economic and social mobility.”

Where student parents are succeeding

Arkansas Career Pathways provides job training, tuition assistance and “holistic case management” to parents who are studying at the state’s community colleges.

“We don’t just want to put people in minimum-wage jobs or in jobs that won’t fulfill them long-term or meet the needs of their families,” Collin Callaway, chief operations officer of Arkansas Community Colleges, told UB last year. “We want to provide training opportunities that make a long-term difference.”

At each college in the system, Pathways students work with a campus-based case manager who provides guidance on financial aid, class selection, career planning and other aspects of higher ed. A year after graduation, 80 percent of the students remain in the jobs they landed after completing college.

“Our case managers refer to themselves as coaches, cheerleaders and therapists, helping folks get through the hard times when they want to give up and there’s not anyone else in their circle encouraging them to keep going,” Callaway said.

The graduation rate for single parents in Endicott College's Keys to Degrees program is 67 percent—far higher than the national average for students with children, administrators of the Boston institution say.

The graduation rate for single parents in Endicott College’s Keys to Degrees program is 67 percent—far higher than the national average for students with children, administrators of the Boston institution say.

At Endicott College in Boston, the Keys to Degrees program provides specialized suite-style housing for single parents, ages 18 to 24, and their children. The college also connects parents with daytime childcare and offers after-hours and weekend babysitters. In exchange, these students must participate in internships during freshman, sophomore and senior years.


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Endicott has used federal grants to help launch similar programs at Dillard University in New Orleans, Eastern Michigan University, Portland State University in Oregon, and St. Catherine University in Minnesota.

“If we give these students the wraparound services, housing and internships, they’re just as successful as every other student,” David Vigneron, the vice president of institutional advancement, told UB. “All of the data show they’re graduating, getting good jobs, becoming independent—and their children are thriving.”