Blog Series: Unpacking the Student Parent Policy Agenda

student parent

Increasing the education level of student parents is vital to California’s future workforce and will enable parents to provide a living wage for their families. This blog series explores what is currently known about student parent participation and success at California’s higher education institutions and examines institutional, state, and federal policies and actions that can support student enrollment and success. The demand for college-educated workers is increasing and demographic projections indicate that the number of high school graduates will decline in the next decade. This combination is a recipe for economic trouble as the state will not have enough educated workers to meet demand. At the same time, the state is becoming more unaffordable for people in underpaid jobs. Increasing the number of parents with a postsecondary degree or credential can improve their economic stability while also meeting our state’s workforce demand.

Student parents face challenges to enrolling and achieving success in higher education. Barriers to success include finding affordable housing, access to affordable childcare, affording groceries and transportation, inflexible course schedules, demands on parental time from their own children, and working excessive hours. Currently, the state and institutions do not collect adequate data on student parents to understand the pressure points they face and what support systems would be the most beneficial.

Institutions can become more student-parent friendly by increasing the supportive services that are targeted at parents such as on-campus daycare, food pantries, and family-friendly housing. Colleges can also adopt more flexible pathways through education; making courses available on evenings and weekends, increasing the availability of online courses, and ensuring that transfer students do not have to repeat coursework are just a few examples of practices that support parents. State and federal policymakers also have a role in supporting student parents through policies like increasing the number of subsidized childcare programs, subsidizing wages for childcare workers, and reducing barriers to entry for federal and state assistance programs for low-income students. This series demonstrates that there are many ways to support student parents along their higher education journey and that this effort is an economic and social imperative for the state.

This blog series was authored by Darcie Harvey and made possible by support from Tipping Point. We are grateful to the insight and many helpful suggestions provided by external reviewers: Carolina Ramirez, Ed Trust-West; and David Croom, Aspen Institute. All errors are our own.

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