Helping pregnant and parenting students

For pre-med student Candice Tapper, getting ready for school isn’t as simple as it is for most students. Before she leaves for USF, she must also dress and prepare breakfast for her 3-year-old son. On her way to school, she drops him off at a daycare center.

At USF, parenting and pregnant students may often have a difficult time balancing school, work and childrearing responsibilities; but with the passage of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Act of 2005, more resources could be provided to help these students meet the costs of childcare and provide aid on campus.

According to a press release, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., introduced the bill on Nov. 7. It proposes to provide $10 million toward 200 grants for eligible colleges and universities so services geared toward pregnant and parenting students may be provided. This includes maternity health care coverage, family housing, childcare, flexible academic scheduling, counseling and financial aid.

Resources at USF for pregnant and parenting students include referrals from Student Health Services and the services provided by the USF Family Center.

According to SHS Director Egilda Terenzi, SHS provides a list of referrals for pregnant students that includes women’s health clinics, obstetricians and gynecologists, prenatal medical care services, maternity resources and adoption organizations. Counseling and other assistance programs to aid pregnant students are not provided by SHS.

USF’s Family Center provides childcare to students, professors and parents within the community. According to Center Director Donna Golub, USF students wanting part-time care for preschoolers pay $5.25 per hour after a $30 per-semester registration fee. Full-time care at 30-50 hours per week costs $147 per week plus an annual $100 registration fee. The Center also provides care for infants and children ages two to three.

However, some USF students find these rates expensive.

“The majority of students can’t afford that,” said USF senior Michael Mitchell, who has three young children.

According to Golub, the daycare receives no subsidies, but up until about a year ago, students receiving Pell grants could get financial aid for childcare.

“We offer quality education and our own curriculum,” Golub said.

Student aid from Pell grants is no longer provided for childcare, Golub said.

This makes the idea of free or low-cost childcare even more appealing for someone like Tapper.

“It would help me be less dependent on my parents and save me the trouble of driving my son to his private school every morning,” she said.

In an effort to make college life easier on pregnant and parenting students, Mitchell is spearheading a new student club called the Student Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN). According to Mitchell, the club, which is in its incipient stages, has several goals to help pregnant and parenting students.

Some of the goals planned include opening up communication between professors to increase awareness about what it takes to make a student parent successful.

SPAN also plans to organize a support group for student parents, set up a committee to mediate major problems arising between professors and student parents, create a non-profit daycare on campus and provide designated parking spaces for expectant mothers.

Tapper said she would participate in a club such as SPAN if it were available.

“(Parenting students) understand our responsibilities and are not looking for handouts, but we would appreciate help,” Tapper said. “Having an unplanned pregnancy isn’t equivalent to having to give up your life, but you have to give a lot more of yourself.”

For more information on SPAN, Mitchell can be contacted at The USF Family Center can be reached at (813) 974-8500.