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Student Parent Success Initiative

About the Student Parent Success Initiative

Most college students are now “nontraditional” and 27 percent of community college students have children. To make dramatic increases in the number of students with postsecondary credentials, which the president has identified as a crucial step in strengthening the U.S. economy, we must make supports such as child care available to student parents. Recent IWPR research shows that community colleges have only 1 child care slot for every ten students who need services.

IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative (SPSI) focuses on supporting students with dependent children who are pursuing college education. The project involves research, tool-building, technical assistance, public education, and networking advocates among policymakers, and practitioners invested in the success of student parents in postsecondary education.

The project’s primary goals are to:

  • Raise awareness and educate institutional leaders and policymakers on the need for and importance of student parent supports to achieve the goal of increasing postsecondary participation and graduation rates within the United States;
  • Improve public policies and resources that encourage and provide support for low-income parents to achieve postsecondary credentials; and,
  • Increase knowledge-sharing about how to replicate and expand successful support programs that assist low-income parents to achieve postsecondary credentials.

IWPR’s role is to serve as a nexus for information by:

  • Networking and informing policy makers and advocates by organizing convenings facilitating online networking, and engaging policymakers and thought leaders to inform public policies;
  • Conducting and commissioning research on resources and supports that help student parents succeed in postsecondary education; and,
  • Informing practice and inspiring investment by creating toolkits, trainings, and other materials for wide distribution.

Resources

Student Parent Program Finder

Student Parent Success Initiative Newsletter

National Coalition for Literacy

Also visit our external resources page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Community College Students Need Fair Job Scheduling Practices
by Lindsey Reichlin, Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (July 2014)

Working is often critical to community college students’ ability to pursue a postsecondary education, but holding a job while in school can threaten a student’s success in college. For students to succeed at both school and work, they need jobs with predictable schedules and they need to have a say in scheduling so that work does not conflict with classes. This is especially important for students who are also parents, who must often schedule child care in addition to work and school.

 
Preview not available

Pathways to Postsecondary Education for Pregnant and Parenting Teens
by Cynthia B. Costello, Ph.D. (June 2014)

This report examines trends in educational attainment for pregnant and parenting teens, as well as programmatic approaches and policy initiatives for improving their high school completion and college enrollment rates. This report is a product of IWPR’s Student Parent Success Initiative, a multifaceted project designed to share knowledge, raise awareness, and improve public policies to support positive outcomes for low-income student parents seeking higher education.

 

Securing a Better Future: A Portrait of Female Students in Mississippi’s Community Colleges
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Sylvia Krohn, Lindsey Reichlin, Stephanie Román, and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (June 2014)

This report presents findings from a survey of female community college students in Mississippi conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. The survey is designed to identify supports and practices that can help women succeed in community college and attain economic security. It explores women’s motivations for pursuing college, their personal and career goals, their support needs, and the economic, health, and time challenges that they experience. The survey was designed as a part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s Student Parent Success Initiative, which provides information and tools to promote the success of student parents in postsecondary education.

 

College Affordability for Low-Income Adults: Improving Returns on Investment for Families and Society
by Barbara Gault, Ph.D., Lindsey Reichlin, M.A., Stephanie Román (April 2014)

This report was prepared by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) as a part of a series of papers on defining college affordability sponsored by the Lumina Foundation. The report examines how efforts to understand and improve college affordability can be informed by the experiences and circumstances of low-income adults, students of color, and students with dependent children.

 

Defining College Affordability for Low-Income Adults
by Barbara Gault (November 2013)

PowerPoint presentation on "Defining College Affordability for low-income adults: Improving returns on investment for families and society" prepared for the Lumina Foundation's Authors Conference.

 
Preview not available

College Students with Children are Common and Face Many Challenges in Completing Higher Education Summary
by Bethany Nelson, Megan Froehner, and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (March 2013)

The role of parenthood in postsecondary outcomes needs greater focus from the higher education reform community. Unless the care-giving responsibilities of low-income adults are actively acknowledged and addressed, efforts to improve postsecondary access and completion for low-income adults, be they through online learning, improved on-ramps, developmental education, institutional accountability, financial aid, or curriculum reform, are likely to fall short of their full potential for change. Colleges, universities, and their surrounding communities must take steps to help students succeed in their work as both students and parents.

 

Student Parents and Financial Aid
by Mark Huelsman and Jennifer Engle, Institute for Higher Education Policy (July 2013)

This brief aims to explain the circumstances of student parents – particularly vis-á-vis the financial aid system – as well as detail major federal programs that could impact student parents’ college-going experience. Given that this population makes up around 1 in 4 students in higher education, it is important that these programs are better understood, utilized, and improved upon where needed.

 

Prepping Colleges for Parents: Strategies for Supporting Student Parent Success in Postsecondary Education
by Rachel Schumacher (July 2013)

This brief is a product of the Student Parent Success Initiative (SPSI) at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). It provides a framework for thinking about the range of supports student parents typically need and example programs. It draws from information and lessons learned collected by IWPR from initiatives supporting student parents at two- and four-year colleges and universities across the country. SPSI resources may be used to inform the decisions of leaders on campuses, in communities, and among policymakers to promote better success rates and stronger families for student parents in postsecondary education.

 

Financing Child Care for College Student Success
by Todd Boressoff (June 2013)

This toolkit provides information about a wide range of funding sources for campus-based child care. It is intended as a resource for early care and education programs, institutions of higher learning, advocates, and policymakers. In addition to descriptions of each resource, it contains over a hundred links to websites of relevant organizations. It is designed as a guide for those seeking to provide quality child care for colleges and university students, considering how to strengthen and expand existing services, or hoping to build networks of support for students with children and other parents on campus.

#G719, Toolkit, 44 pages
$10.00
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Education Data Show Gender Gap in Career Preparation
by National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education and the National Coalition on Women, Jobs and Job Training (March 2013)

This report was prepared as a summary of an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Women’s Law Center, and Wider Opportunities for Women, under the auspices of the National Coalition of Women and Girls in Education and the National Coalition on Women, Jobs and Job Training.

 

The Pregnancy Assistance Fund as a Support for Student Parents in Postsecondary Education
by Rhiana Gunn-Wright (July 2012)

The Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) is a competitive grant program created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provides funding to states and tribes to support programs that provide pregnant and parenting women and girls with supportive services to help them complete high school or postsecondary degrees (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010a). Only two states, Minnesota and Virginia, have used their PAF grants to provide services related to postsecondary institutions. This fact sheet describes several of the programs and initiatives created by these PAF grantees. Unless otherwise noted, all program information comes from interviews with program officials and staff.

 

Community College Partnerships for Student and Career Success: Program Profile of Carreras en Salud
by Jane Henrici, Ph.D. (June 2012)

Postsecondary students with children often need an array of supports to succeed in their studies, which can require significant coordination among new and existing services (Conway, Blair, and Helmer 2012; Henrici n.d.; Miller, Gault, and Thorman 2011). Such supports might include financial aid, academic and career counseling, job placement assistance, transportation, housing, child care, and classes in English-as-a-Second Language. To more effectively provide an expanded range of student resources, community colleges often partner with local nonprofits, private businesses and foundations, and government institutions (Altstadt 2011; Bragg et al. 2007; Bray, Painter, and Rosen 2011; Conway, Blair, and Helmer 2012; Leutz 2007; Singh 2007; Wilson 2010). This fact sheet describes Carreras en Salud (“Careers in Health”), a career pathway program that scholars and advocates have elevated as a promising model for providing comprehensive supports through multiple partnerships with city colleges in Chicago.

 

Housing Resources and Programs for Single Student Parents at Community and Technical Colleges
by Abby Thorman, Ph.D., Jessica Otto, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright (May 2012)

Parents with dependent children now make up almost one in four students pursuing higher education in the United States (Miller, Gault and Thorman 2011). Single parents face particular challenges pursuing higher education, including securing safe and affordable housing. Single mothers often must spend over half of their income on housing expenses, leaving them with less money for educational expenses and vulnerable to housing crises that can easily derail their pursuit of a degree (Bush 2010). An analysis of effective strategies to support single student parents identifies affordable housing as one of the most important factors to ensuring student success (Women Employed 2011). This brief highlights a number of community-based organizations that offer housing and other support to single student parents pursuing postsecondary education at community college—where a majority of single student parents attend college—and/or job training, as well as some community colleges that offer on-campus housing for single student parents. Information for the program descriptions was gathered either from the program’s website or follow-up conversations with program staff. Recommendations for community colleges are outlined at the conclusion of this brief.

 

Single Student Parents Face Financial Difficulties, Debt, Without Adequate Aid
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (May 2012)

Parents with dependent children were nearly one quarter of students enrolled for credit at American postsecondary institutions in 2008. These students face significant challenges to remaining enrolled and graduating, including limited access to affordable child care, difficulty balancing the demands of school with the demands of work and family, and financial limitations that make it difficult to remain enrolled. Student parents are more likely than traditional students to say that financial difficulties are likely to result in their withdrawing from college (Miller, Gault, and Thorman 2011).

 

Gender Segregation in Fields of Study at Community Colleges and Implications for Future Earnings
by Layla Moughari, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (May 2012)

Postsecondary education yields myriad benefits, including increased earnings potential, higher lifetime wages, and access to quality jobs. But postsecondary degrees are not all equalin the benefits they bring to students and women tend to obtain degrees in fields with lower earnings. Women with associate degrees earn approximately 75 percent of what men with associate degrees earn (U.S. Department of Commerce and the Executive Office of the President, 2011). This wage gap occurs in part because women with AA degrees—like women at all degree levels—often work in lower-paid, female-dominated occupations (Hegewisch, et al. 2010).

 

Tools for Student Parent Success: Varieties of Campus Child Care
by Todd Boressoff (March 2012)

This toolkit is the first in a series by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). It introduces the wide variety of child care services that exist at institutions of higher learning. Rather than an exhaustive study of campus child care programs, it is an introduction to possible options. It is for those seeking to provide quality child care at colleges or universities and for those considering how to expand or rethink existing services.

#C393, Toolkit, 19 pages
$10.00
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Increasing Opportunities for Low-Income Women and Student Parents in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Community Colleges
by Cynthia B. Costello, Ph.D (March 2012)

Drawing on a literature and program review, analysis of publicly available data, and consultations with experts in the field, this report examines opportunities for women and student parents to pursue and succeed in STEM fields at community colleges.

#C388, Report, 81 pages
$15.00
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Low Literacy Means Lower Earnings, Especially for Women
by Jennifer Herard, Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Jane Henrici, Ph.D., and Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (February 2012)

Appropriate literacy levels are crucial for both men and women seeking education and employment opportunities, but low literacy skills disproportionally hurt women’s chances of earning a sustaining wage.

 

Improving Child Care Access to Promote Postsecondary Success Among Low-Income Parents
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D., Barbara Gault, Ph.D., and Abby Thorman, Ph.D. (March 2011)

This report examines the role of child care as a crucial support for parents who pursue postsecondary education.

#C378, Report, 54 pages
$10.00
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Implications for Low-Income Student Parents of House Bill H.R. 1, Proposed Continuing Resolution for FY 2011 Appropriations
by Tiffany Boiman (March 2011)

With the ongoing debate in Congress over how to fund the remainder of the 2011 Fiscal Year, considerable uncertainty exists surrounding the funding picture for many federal programs going forward. This is no less true for the diverse roster of student financial aid, child care, and other education and training programs and initiatives that support low-income student parents as they strive to enter and complete postsecondary programs.

 

Student Parents Face Significant Challenges to Postsecondary Success
by Kevin Miller, Ph.D. (November 2010)

 
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