By Kat Londsdorf

Ever heard that term? It’s used for a student who is also a parent, and there are nearly 5 million of them in colleges around the country. That’s over a quarter of the undergraduate population, and that number has gone up by around a million since 2011.

It can be really, really expensive to be a student parent, especially if you need to pay for child care while you’re in class.

In some states, child care for an infant can cost as much as $17,062 a year, according to a report by Child Care Aware of America. Add that on to the ever-rising cost of college tuition — both private and public — and the financial strain of getting a college education becomes a huge burden for low-income parents. So much so that only a third of student parents get a degree within six years, often citing mounting debt as a reason for dropping out.

“What it comes down to is that college becomes a bit of an impossibility for a low-income parent who needs child care to go to school,” says Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, an organization that’s done a lot of research on student parents.

The primary source of federal aid for child care nationwide comes from something called the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) — specifically for low-income parents and families. A block grant means that every state can develop its own eligibility requirements, which means it’s tricky to know if you qualify.

States have unique education-specific rules attached to the CCDBG — basically a bunch of extra hurdles student parents have to clear. Gault, along with a team of other researchers at IWPR, recently compiled requirements from all the states to get a snapshot of what student parents are up against.

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