Despite the recent recession, colleges have been making an effort to offer benefits to those seeking a degree in an effort to increase attendance. However, one large group has been left far behind in the push for higher education: family makers.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), 4.8 million undergraduates are attempting to seek a degree while raising children. Despite comprising one-fourth of college students, there are few benefits available at major universities and colleges to aid in their education.
This leads to 52 percent of parents withdrawing after 6 years of enrollment without a degree, compared to the 32 percent dropout rate of non-parents.
The financial burden of paying for a degree causes many students to give up with the end in sight out of fear of their family suffering due to debt. While they do receive federal tuition assistance in the form of Pell Grants, they are still struggling more than non-parents.
“Single student-parents have an average annual unmet need of $6,117 compared to $3,650 for non-parent students, and $3,289 for married parents,” according to a study done by the IWPR.
The aid offered is not enough when you take into consideration the cost of day care, as well as the many hours dedicated to caring for the child that ends up amounting to a second job for the student. Consequently, many hours can no longer be spent working a job they actually get paid for.
An obvious solution would be for universities to have on-campus child care options available for its students. Yet those necessary facilities are in the decline as colleges focus the budget on other projects.
In fact, those with still-functioning childcare centers are so sought after that 80 percent contain waiting lists with an average wait of 90 children, or approximately 85 percent of the enrollment center.
Relocating one’s family to a school that offers aid is not a viable option for most families. It is imperative colleges begin to make benefits available for parents; otherwise they will continue to be left behind.
Minority students are the most likely to suffer from the lack of aid, with 37 percent of African American, 33 percent of American Indian and 25 percent of Hispanic students attempting to graduate while also having children.
The IWPR also found “College students with children are also likely to be first-generation college students. Forty-nine percent of student-parents are first-generation college students, while only 29 percent of non-parents are first generation. Half of veteran student-parents are first-generation college students, as are 55 percent of Latino student parents.”
If universities were to make a stand and vow to reach out to student-parents, they would be reaching an important minority group and that would only bring them positive press, while ensuring students have degrees that allow them to provide the best life for their families.
If finances are truly the issue, the university should reassess their priorities. Before throwing huge sums of money at landscaping or cheap branded merchandise to give out to students, they should consider the alternative.
Students can survive without free t-shirts, but a huge demographic is being forced to give up on their dreams because part of that dream involved having a family. It’s time higher education in the U.S. stops punishing students for being parents.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.