Five Recommendations for How Community Colleges Can Help Student Parents Succeed

Posted February 1, 2023
A young Latino mother walks down a flight of outdoor steps; her infant child is nestled in front of her, strapped into a baby-wearing device.

A new Child Trends report fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion fea­tures five rec­om­men­da­tions for how com­mu­ni­ty col­leges can help stu­dents who are parents.

The rec­om­men­da­tions are based on find­ings from the first three years of the Expand­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Young Fam­i­lies (EOYF) ini­tia­tive, a five-year Foun­da­tion effort that aims to bol­ster the edu­ca­tion­al and eco­nom­ic suc­cess of young parents.

Five Ways Com­mu­ni­ty Col­leges Can Help Young Parents

The report offers five key rec­om­men­da­tions for sup­port­ing stu­dent parents:

  1. Make col­lege more acces­si­ble, with inclu­sive design and wel­com­ing envi­ron­ments. To bet­ter sup­port stu­dents who are par­ents, com­mu­ni­ty col­leges must be aware of the demands on stu­dents who are pur­su­ing an edu­ca­tion while rais­ing a fam­i­ly. To put this into prac­tice, col­leges should offer afford­able, on-cam­pus child care options, more flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing that takes par­ent needs into account and ded­i­cat­ed child- and par­ent-friend­ly spaces on campus.
  2. Con­nect stu­dent par­ents to the sup­port they need. Stu­dent par­ents have to bal­ance work, school and their fam­i­ly lives. As a result, they often may be unaware of impor­tant resources and ser­vices to help them thrive. Instead of expect­ing stu­dents to nav­i­gate the net­work of help avail­able to them, com­mu­ni­ty col­leges should deploy tar­get­ed out­reach efforts to ensure stu­dent par­ents are aware of and have access to on-cam­pus pro­grams and policies.
  3. Keep stu­dent par­ents enrolled by meet­ing their needs. There are sev­er­al rea­sons that par­ent­ing stu­dents leave col­lege with­out grad­u­at­ing, such as finan­cial inse­cu­ri­ty; lack of access to child care; or dif­fi­cul­ty bal­anc­ing work and school life. To help stu­dent par­ents com­plete their edu­ca­tion, com­mu­ni­ty col­leges must ensure their needs are met both as stu­dents and as par­ents. Insti­tu­tions can do this by col­lab­o­rat­ing with local gov­ern­ments and non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions, draw­ing on exist­ing resources — such as nav­i­ga­tion ser­vices — or sim­pli­fy­ing access to emer­gency aid.
  4. Improve sup­port sys­tems for fathers to reaf­firm that they belong. Stu­dent par­ents who are also fathers often feel unwel­come on cam­pus. Avail­able par­ent­ing resources at col­leges often tar­get moth­ers, with 61% of fathers who are com­mu­ni­ty col­lege stu­dents leav­ing school with­out grad­u­at­ing. To bet­ter sup­port these stu­dents, col­leges should cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for peer con­nec­tion between fathers. Devel­op­ing mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als, spe­cial events and spaces on cam­pus that rec­og­nize and cel­e­brate fathers as stu­dent par­ents are just a few ways to achieve this.
  5. Engage par­ent­ing stu­dents and ampli­fy their voic­es. Stu­dent par­ents are experts when it comes to their own expe­ri­ences. Gen­er­a­tion Hope’s recent Our Cam­pus, Our Voice” mini-grants ini­tia­tive is one mod­el for stu­dent-par­ent-led change at high­er edu­ca­tion institutions.

By build­ing lead­er­ship skills with stu­dent par­ents and involv­ing them in pol­i­cy and pro­gram­ming dis­cus­sions, com­mu­ni­ty col­leges will strength­en the impact of all our rec­om­men­da­tions, from inclu­sive design and inten­tion­al mes­sag­ing to com­pre­hen­sive ser­vices and sup­ports for fathers on cam­pus,” the authors note.

Who Are Stu­dent Parents?

Accord­ing to the report, more than one-fifth of all under­grad­u­ate stu­dents in the Unit­ed States are par­ents, and 40% of Black female stu­dents are par­ents. How­ev­er, giv­en long­stand­ing sys­temic bar­ri­ers, such as dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies and prac­tices and stig­mas sur­round­ing young par­ents, cam­pus­es can be par­tic­u­lar­ly unwel­com­ing to stu­dents who have chil­dren. Par­ent­ing stu­dents have a greater need for finan­cial, food and hous­ing assis­tance and face a high­er risk of drop­ping out of school.

More and more com­mu­ni­ty col­leges are rec­og­niz­ing that par­ents account for a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of their stu­dent body,” says Quanic Fullard, a Casey Foun­da­tion senior asso­ciate who spe­cial­izes in two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es.​“The five rec­om­men­da­tions in this report offer impor­tant guid­ance for these insti­tu­tions as they take steps to ensure stu­dent par­ents have the sup­port they need to be successful.”

Learn how a Mia­mi com­mu­ni­ty col­lege is help­ing stu­dent par­ents succeed

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