Rellis Strategies, a newly established professional service branch of Trellis Research with a focus on modern learners, has recently unveiled a comprehensive report shedding light on the financial well-being of student parents and their unique requirements.
Student parents, constituting approximately 22 percent of the higher education learner population, predominantly single parents, have been identified as necessitating additional financial assistance in areas such as tuition, basic necessities, and childcare to enhance their academic success.
Surveying over 57,900 students across 104 two- and four-year colleges and universities during the fall 2021 semester, with 13,494 being parenting students, Trellis’s report, titled “Navigating College and Parenthood,” presents valuable insights into the characteristics and support needs of student parents.
- Diversity: Of the surveyed parenting students, around 19 percent were Black, and 30 percent were Hispanic, showcasing the diverse composition of this group.
- Gender: A significant majority (75 percent) of parenting students identified as female, mirroring national trends in higher education, where 56 percent of the total surveyed population were female.
- Employment: Student parents exhibited higher employment rates, with 71 percent of them being employed compared to 67 percent of nonparenting students. Additionally, a larger proportion of student parents were enrolled part-time (73 percent).
- Caregiving: About 28 percent of surveyed parents dedicated more than 40 hours per week to caregiving responsibilities. Furthermore, 83 percent of student parents considered it important to financially support their families while pursuing their education, and 37 percent financially supported their spouses as well.
Financial Support and Basic Needs:
- Financial Means: Parenting students often relied on employment, grant funding, student loans, and credit cards to finance their college education. In contrast, nonparenting students were more inclined to use savings, family support, and scholarships.
- Basic Needs Insecurity: Parenting students faced a higher risk of basic needs insecurity compared to their peers without children. Three in five student parents experienced housing insecurity, whereas the figure stood at four in 10 for nonparenting students. Additionally, approximately 44 percent of student parents reported low or very low food security, while 42 percent of nonparenting students faced similar challenges.
Recommendations for Support:
To better cater to the needs of student parents, the report proposes several actions for higher education leaders to consider:
- Affordable Childcare: Increasing access to affordable on-campus childcare facilities, as research suggests that students who utilize such services are more likely to persist, graduate sooner, and perform better academically.
- Enhanced Financial Aid Programs: Tailoring financial aid programs to accommodate the unique needs of student parents, which may involve expanding need-based grants, scholarships, low-interest loans, or simplifying financial aid application processes.
- Improved Basic Needs and Mental Health Support: Addressing basic needs insecurity by providing more accessible resources for student parents, such as on-campus food support. Additionally, enhancing mental health support and services to address the unique stressors faced by this group.
- Parent Liaisons: Appointing designated staff members as parent liaisons to facilitate programs and initiatives geared toward student parents. These liaisons would serve as a single point of contact for guidance, resources, and assistance.