Single Parents on Campus

According to a recent CLASP factsheet the typical college student is no longer an 18 year old right out of high school. The new typical college student is a non-traditional student who lives off campus, works, and is often a parent.  36% of undergrads are 25 or older, 43% work part-time and 32% work full-time while attending classes.  Nearly one in four students are parents (23% - 3.9 million) and over the last 20 years the number of single parents attending college has nearly doubled (from 7% to 13% - 1.9 million) and 40% of all students are low income (below 200% of the FPL). Recent reports from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research show that single parents are more likely to need financial aid with 62% having an expected family contribution of zero compared to 20 % of students without children. The report always found that single parent students have 20 to 30 percent more debt after graduation then non-parent students.  Much of the additional debt incurred by single parents can be attributed to the costs of child care and adequate housing which are often not provided on many campuses.
 Nearly half of student parents work full-time while enrolled, in addition to caregiving responsibilities, which are heavier for enrolled mothers than for their male counterparts. Single student parents in particular are likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds or situations: they are less likely to have parents who have earned postsecondary degrees and more likely to be low-income and to qualify for need-based financial aid.
Attending college as a single parent is hard and it takes a great deal of hard work and effort but it is well worth it.  Receiving a college degree increases a single parent’s ability to earn income.  The Department of Labor states that people with an associate degree on average earn 22% more than those with only a high school education and those with bachelor’s degrees earn 64% more annually then those with only a high school education. Education really is a way to escape poverty and improve life for you and your children.

Assistance for Single Parents in Higher Education

  • Public assistance - in several states single parents who attend college can qualify for benefits such as TANF (welfare), Snap/Food Stamps, Public Housing/Section 8, and childcare assistance
  • Financial Aid, Grants and Scholarship – there are several types of financial aid available that are not loans and you do not have to pay back when you graduate.
  • Mutual support – single parents can often trade off babysitting with another student, join a campus support group for single parents, or start a group if your college doesn’t have one.
  • For more ideas and information for single parents who want to attend college you can contact DAWG and we can help you through the processes.  We can even help you start a group on your campus.

Recommendations to Institutes of Higher Education

Since the face of the typical college student is changing it is time for campuses to start reflecting the needs of today’s students.
  • Provide on campus childcare during class time, study time, and lab time.  Traditional 8 to 6 childcare is not enough.  Campuses also need to accept the state childcare assistance payments as well as provide childcare for infants.
  • Provide family programs and events which welcome parents and their children to become an active part of campus life.
  • Provide financial aid counseling that informs single parents of the options such as work study, grants, and scholarships as well as state level assistance they may qualify for.
  • Provide on campus housing for single parent families especially families with multiple children.
  • Provide on campus afterschool and summer programs for school age children.
  • Meet with single parent students and find out what they need that your campus is not providing and then work together to develop the services.
Even though many campuses lack the supports single parents need, there are other avenues parents can use to seek assistance such as state childcare assistance, TANF, Snap/Food stamps, and public housing. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t go to college.  Our Executive Director did with four little babies and then went on to found DAWG to help other mothers who had the dream of going to college.  Contact DAWG for more information on how we can help you as a student or how we can help start a parent support group on your campus.      

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