It could be a mother of two sitting next to you in class, or a single father whose face you see in an online classroom. Chances are, you couldn’t pick out a student parent in a classroom, but there’s a good chance that you may know one.
A number of students with children often decide to go to college to open up new career opportunities and give their kids a better life. Some student parents are also single parents, working full-time to support their child while managing a full course load. It’s a long, hard road, but it’s a path they’ve decided is worth it.
It’s not easy juggling college and parenthood. In many cases, student parents face additional challenges to attaining their bachelor’s degree that other students don’t. With that in mind, here are eight things you may not have realized about student parents that might give you perspective on where they’re coming from and what they’re working toward.
More Than 1 out of 5 College Students Have Children
What percentage of college students have children? According to information from the 2015-2016 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study, over 22% of all undergraduates are parents.
So, just how many students across the country are parents? The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes that of the 20 million college students in the U.S. enrolled during the 2019-2020 academic year, 4.3 million are raising a child.
The Majority of Student Parents Are Single Mothers
Breaking down the statistics of the NCES study even further, 70 percent of student parents are mothers — and 62 percent of them are single mothers. Among the 30 percent of fathers attending college, these individuals are 1.6 times more likely to be married than their women counterparts in the classroom.
Many Student Parents Are In Their 30s
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), most student parents are in their 30s. The median age for single student parents is 30, while married student parents tend to be a little older, with a median age of 34.
Student parents are quite a bit older than most traditional students who attend college directly out of high school. However, they have a lot more work experience and life experience that they bring with them to the classroom, giving them a unique perspective.
The Majority of Student Parents Are People of Color
Over half of all student parents are people of color, with 51 percent enrolled as either full-time or part-time students in a two- or four-year program. Over 33 percent of those student parents are African American, 21 percent are Hispanic, and 13 percent are Asian.
Student Parents Get Better Grades
Despite many of the challenges they face, many student parents may be more driven than their peers without children. Often, student parents attend college to better their job prospects and provide a better life for their own children. Approximately 33 percent of student parents earn a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Only 31 percent of independent students without children and 26 percent of students who are dependents have a comparable GPA.
Nearly Half of All Student Parents Work Full-Time
On top of raising a child and attending school, over 44 percent of student parents work a full-time job. One of the reasons why so many student parents decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree is to open new doors of opportunity to better-paying jobs. Over 88 percent of student parents have incomes at or below the poverty level, which is $17,240 for a household of two, according to federal poverty guidelines. Factor in the high cost of monthly childcare — roughly $490 per month — and nearly one-third of a student parent’s income can disappear.
Over Half of All Student Parents Dropout Before Earning Their Degree
According to a report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), of the 4.3 million student parents in the nation, 52 percent of them dropout of college before earning their degree. Despite the fact that student parents often get better grades than their non-parent peers and that they’re more motivated to succeed, some face barriers that may be difficult to overcome.
At the time the report was issued, it indicated that more than half of student parents working toward their bachelor’s degree have at least one child age five or younger. Since their children may not be old enough to attend kindergarten or pre-school, it may be difficult for these parents to focus on their studies if they don’t have child care. Even if a student parent works during the day and attends night classes, there aren’t many options for child care during evening hours.
Without a trusted friend or loved one to help care for their children while studying, many student parents can face the financial hardship of paying out-of-pocket for child care.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized how a lack of adequate child care has contributed to high dropout rates among student parents. As a result, they created the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which offers colleges funding for child care services and provides students with federal student aid that can also be used to help them pay for child care.
Student Parents Dropout Because They Don’t Have Time to Study
In addition to the cost and complexities of child care for student parents, another key reason why so many dropout is because they don’t have enough time to study. “Time poverty” is one of the chief causes behind the high dropout rate of this group.
A study published in 2018 in the “Journal of Higher Education” revealed that student parents only had 10 hours left in their day after school, work, and taking care of their children, compared to 21 hours for students without children. In this short span of time, student parents are expected to eat, sleep, and study. It can be difficult to squeeze everything into such a short span of time.
Attending class is only one part of the equation. But being able to keep up with assignments, write papers, and study for exams can require additional time and concentration. These aspects of being a student are equally as important as being physically (and mentally) present for class.
Helping Student Parents Earn a Degree
Many schools, including National University, recognize the importance of helping student parents earn a degree and climb the ladder to a more rewarding and better-paying career. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, National University is regionally accredited, making it easier to transfer credits and earn your degree faster.
We’re proud to provide accessible, achievable higher education to adult learners in both an on-campus and online setting. With over 75 degree programs, we offer flexible online courses and four-week courses that allow students to concentrate on one subject at a time, one month at a time.
If you’re thinking about going back to school, get in touch with us. A member of our admissions team can give you more information to help you on your next big journey.