Understanding the Student-Parent Experience
One-fourth of all community college students are parents, and yet this large portion of our student population remains largely unseen. In addition to the usual challenges that college students face—homework, navigating schedules and paying for college—student-parents have the added challenge of securing affordable, quality child care. And they don’t just need it for when they are attending classes—but also when they need quiet time to study, or if they want be involved in student groups.
Even leaving class can be a challenge. Students can be docked points for leaving early, which might be necessary to pick up their child/children on time. (Child care providers often charge a fee if parents come after a certain time.)
The results of Generation Hope’s National Student-Parent Survey give a glimpse into what life is like for these students in 2020:
- Forty percent of respondents felt isolated as a parenting student on campus.
- More than 60% missed at least one day of class due to lack of child care.
- Three-fourths of respondents were unaware that their financial aid could be increased to account for child care costs.
For a look closer to home, Dana—a student-parent at FRCC—agreed to share her experiences in this unique space.
“I’m 25, a single mother, and I go to FRCC full-time, which has been a major balancing act. I home-schooled myself for a year as a teen parent after my son, Jeremiah, was born—and walked my high school graduation alone.
When I was 22, I attempted to go back to FRCC. I had to drop out mid-semester due to homelessness. As a first-generation student, I didn’t know how to academically withdraw, which tanked my GPA. I slept in my car in the parking lots of Walmart, a hotel, and in neighborhoods. I eventually got myself into my first apartment.
I was the only person on my lease for a little over six months while caring for my then four-year-old son. I drove for Uber and waited tables to make ends meet. I was in a situation where I had to make quick decisions that could have turned out very differently for me and my son. I never gave up on trying to get back to FRCC, and every single time I faced an obstacle.”
“Eventually, after getting myself stable while living in my first apartment, I appealed and enrolled with FRCC. Since then I have been excelling in school, and in my life in general. Halfway through completing my degree, I found a support system in the TRIO program, and since then my life has been on an upward trajectory.”
Federal TRIO programs serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities. These resources are designed to help students succeed in their education. FRCC’s Westminster Campus offers TRIO support services to students who qualify.
The college also offers students help with paying for childcare through a federal grant program called Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS). This funding can help cover up to 60% of monthly child care costs for our students who have children under the age of 12—and it’s available to students at all of FRCC’s campuses.
“My personal and family goals are self-sufficiency, independence and financial freedom. Professionally, I plan pursue a Master of Social Work degree. I am transferring to CU-Denver in the fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology, while simultaneously working towards a minor in women’s and gender studies. I want to eventually be in a place where I can help support other people who have experienced homelessness, single parenthood and being a single mother.
Forty percent of teen mothers finish high school. Fewer than 2% go on to get a college degree by age 30—and I’ve accomplished that at 25. Young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65% less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time.
Throughout my journey, I’ve come to understand that I can’t do it alone—and others can’t do it alone. Having a cohort of people in the TRIO and CCAMPIS programs who are willing to help me has been a major positive influence for the trajectory of my life.”