Expanding Pathways for Student Parents: A Policy Agenda to Meet the Needs of Student Parents


California parents have faced numerous challenges this year from health fears caused by the pandemic, uncertain employment, abrupt closures of daycare and aftercare facilities and programs, and the challenges of helping their children with remote learning. Parents who are also students themselves have faced even more obstacles as they balance the competing demands of parenting, working, and attending school. While the pandemic exacerbated these struggles, they are not new. Historically, parenting students have faced additional barriers to higher education entry and success including economic insecurity, caregiving demands, scheduling classes around their parenting responsibilities, and meeting the basic needs of their families.

 California Competes has launched a policy agenda aimed at expanding the pathways to higher education for student parents and improving their success once enrolled. The policy agenda highlights how the economic challenges faced by student parents and the competing demands on their time often serve as roadblocks to college completion. The agenda homes in on the key strategies that institutions and state policymakers must take to prioritize and address the needs of student parents. These strategies are:
  • addressing higher education and childcare costs,
  • making institutions more parent-friendly, and
  • understanding the needs of student parents by collecting and sharing more data on these students.

This blog series expands on the policy agenda, digging into why it is important to address the needs of student parents and providing details on specific strategies that can be taken by institutions and the state to support these students. The second post in the series examines barriers parenting students face, how increasing educational attainment can be beneficial for these students and for the state, and what is known and not known about the current participation of parents in higher education in California. The third post details actions that can be taken by institutions in each public higher education segment to meet student parents’ needs. The fourth post summarizes strategies state and federal policy leaders can take to help student parents.

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