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Student parents are on every postsecondary campus across the country — in-person and online — but are rendered invisible by current data practices. Institutions must first identify the population of need, determine the appropriate next steps, and use this report as a guide for potential interventions.
Many of the constraints that impact the success of students who are parents and the institutions that serve them are the result of state and federal policies and priorities. However, policies at the state and local level can also be opportunities to leverage additional support for parents. Specific policy guidance, modifications, or implementation at the federal and state level can greatly impact the experience and success of students who are parents.
Investment in resources that improve the experience of students who are parents will improve the college experience for all students. With intentional engagement, college campuses can become a locus of community for “traditional” and “nontraditional” students alike.
A lack of financial resources has long been cited as a barrier to furthering and completing postsecondary education for all students. For students who are parents, however, awareness of and access to financial supports could mean the difference between stopping school to work or continuing their studies.
Addressing mental health and trauma is a persistent concern for students who are parents. While more research is needed to understand the specific mental health needs of students who are parents, it is clear that mental health challenges—including depression and anxiety—can be a barrier to both academic and parental success.
Although the population of students or workforce participants who are parents remains steady, the common narrative of the “traditional” student continues to persist, excluding this group and resulting in a stigma around students with children. Creating more inclusive student-serving strategies, such as networking and sharing of narratives, reduces this stigma and promotes overall inclusion on campus.