Resource Roundup: Supporting Student Parents
This resource roundup includes three Annie E. Casey Foundation-supported publications as well as four documentary shorts that focus on the needs of students who are parents.
“Many colleges and universities have only recently begun to better understand and reach out to students who are parents,” says Quanic Fullard, a senior associate with the Casey Foundation.“ This collection of resources reminds us of the specific challenges parenting students face, shows the latest findings from the field and offers schools and policymakers ways they can take action.”
Publications Aimed at Helping Young Parents
Supporting Our Young Parents: Evidence from the 2021 Student Financial Wellness Survey
Supporting Our Young Parents leverages national survey data to illustrate what financial well-being looks like for parenting students and how younger student parents face different challenges than student parents who are 25 years or older.
The report shares several key findings:
- Student parents have more financial responsibilities. Parenting students have more financial responsibilities than their non-parenting peers and may experience food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness. Student parents are also far more likely to accrue high levels of debt.
- Young student parents have fewer financial resources than older student parents. Sixty-nine percent of young parenting students indicated that they would have trouble finding $500 in cash or credit in the event of an unexpected expense in the next month. Older parents are more likely to work full-time while attending school, although 43% of young parents work 40 or more hours a week.
- Young student parents have a stronger social safety net than older student parents. They are more likely to receive help from family members when it comes to paying for school and caring for their children.
- Young student parents face basic needs insecurity and mental health challenges. Despite a stronger safety net, young parenting students experience higher rates of basic needs insecurity and mental health challenges than older student parents. The report notes that nearly half of young parents experience mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression, and 27% of young student parents have been homeless in the last year.
On a Journey for Families: Lessons Learned from Colleges Investing in Student Parents
In a new report, Generation Hope examines lessons learned from its FamilyU technical assistance program. The two-year, evidence-driven program was launched to help colleges and universities make institutional-level changes to better serve student parents. The program’s inaugural cohort, launched in 2021, served 25,000 student parents across four colleges and universities and 13 campuses.
The report draws several important conclusions, among them:
- Supporting student parents is racial equity work. Schools that participated in FamilyU needed to confront longstanding racial disparities in higher education and create new policies with inclusivity in mind. Each school reported applying an equity-driven student parent lens to policy development and evaluation.
- Current, comprehensive data is essential. Cohort members initially had little to no data about student parents. To better inform their work, each school began identifying parents within the current student body and disaggregating the data across intersecting identities such as race, gender, sex and marital status.
- Higher education needs to bring all decision makers to the table. Each FamilyU cohort’s team includes representatives from financial aid, academic instruction, student services, institutional research and facilities management. Each cohort reported that this strengthened relationships across the institution, often between areas that had rarely collaborated before.
- Direct lines of communication are necessary. Participating schools found that there needed to be opportunities for direct communication between student parents and school administrators. Experiences and expertise gathered from student parents were then used to create effective and inclusive policies and practices at each school.
Securing Student Parent Success: Policy Options for States
“Securing Student Parent Success” looks at the role policymakers can play in the success of student parents. It notes:
- one in 5 college students are parents;
- just under 4 million parents are raising children while pursuing a postsecondary education; and
- most student parents — 70% — are mothers, and most female student parents are single, divorced or widowed.
To make a tangible difference in the lives of student parents, the report offers several policy recommendations, including:
- Improve post-secondary education affordability. The report suggests increasing awareness of the scholarships, grants and loan repayment options currently available to student parents; creating financial assistance or reduced tuition policies targeted to student parents; and ensuring student parents’ needs and interests are represented in policy conversations around college affordability and the student debt crisis.
- Develop accessible, on-campus child care. On-campus child care is available at less than half of the postsecondary institutions in the U.S. The report tasks policymakers with prioritizing the creation of on-campus child care using existing federally funded child care programs, such as the Child Care and Development Fund.
- Create and fund campus-based support services. Lawmakers can pass legislation requiring public colleges and universities to offer certain services for student parents.
Documentaries in Honor of National Student Parent Month
WorkingNation Film Series on Student Mothers
In honor of September’s National Student Parent Month, nonprofit media and journalism organization WorkingNation created four short documentaries that spotlight student mothers at community colleges across the country. The videos showcase two Casey grantees, Miami Dade College and Santa Fe Community College, and their efforts to support parenting students on campus.