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Student Parent Success Initiative

About the Student Parent Success Initiative

Most college students are now “nontraditional” and 26 percent of 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. 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.


Student Parent Program Finder

Student Parent Success Initiative Newsletter

IWPR Student Parent Survey

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

Latest Reports from IWPR

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

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

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

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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