Resource Roundup: Supporting Student Parents

Updated November 10, 2023 | Posted July 11, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Woman works on a laptop while a small toddler sits in a stroller nearby.

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

by Trel­lis Strategies

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

by Gen­er­a­tion Hope

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

By Insti­tute for Women’s Pol­i­cy Research

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

By Work­ing­Na­tion

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.

How one non­prof­it sup­port­s the suc­cess of stu­dent parents

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