Over 5.4 million college student-parents are studying in the United States, and over 22% of undergraduates have dependent children. While student-parents carry higher grade point averages, they are ten times more likely to drop out of school. How can our institutions better support this often-overlooked population on our college campuses? In our most recent episode of the Friday 5 Live podcast, Bianca Ramirez, a student parent and founder of the nonprofit organization Student Parents Empowered, shared tips for how institutions can create a better learning environment for their student-parents.
1. Support Student-Parents With Access To Childcare
The biggest challenge facing students who have dependent children is reliable and affordable childcare. It is often a need for more childcare that causes students to drop out. Bianca encourages colleges to partner with local organizations like YMCAs or churches to ensure student-parents have childcare and that such programming is offered during class hours, evenings, and weekends to ensure that student-parents have access when they most need care.
2. Create Family-Friendly Policies For Student-Parents
How do institutional policies support student-parents? Are children allowed on campus? Are syllabi family-friendly? How are classes offered in a way that supports completion by student-parents? 70% of student-parents are single parents. Bianca strongly recommended that institutions connect with student-parents to understand their needs and the challenges they face and creatively consider how they can support them through events like Student-Parent Day or Kids on Campus initiatives.
3. Ensure Safe & Affordable Housing For Student-Parents
Housing insecurity poses yet another significant challenge for student-parents. Bianca's own experience, where she found herself in a shelter as a new mom after losing her on-campus housing, highlights the urgency of this issue. Educational institutions can step up by utilizing their own residential spaces to create family-friendly housing options or by partnering with local resources, including apartment complexes. Ensuring that student-parents have access to safe and affordable housing is essential for their academic success and overall well-being.
Looking for more tips for supporting student parents? Check out our Friday 5 Live Podcast episode Making Student-Parents Visible On College Campuses.
For nearly 20 years, Innovative Educators has assisted college leaders to build foundations of success for their students. Institutions have seen student engagement and retention increase as a result of utilizing Go2Orientation, OnlineLingo and StudentLingo to onboard new students. Grounded in best practices for online learning, Innovative Educators student support tools are engaging, interactive, and community-building. Go2Orientation, OnlineLingo and StudentLingo together create a powerful online resource center providing support to students throughout their academic journey.
By Meg Foster
Online Learning & Design Specialist - Consultant