California community college students are likely to come from racial and ethnic minorities, be the first in their families to attend college, go to school part time, work, and take on debt for their education.

“Student parents sit at the intersection of all of those trends,” said Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “If you want to increase student success, if you want to increase family economic security, you have to start paying attention to these students.”

Cruse said research has shown that affordable, high-quality child care is essential to enabling students to complete college. Managing the needs of each student is also particularly effective. At Valley College, a counselor and a social worker help students plan out their courses and enroll in services for which they and their kids are eligible.

Ensuring that student parents stay in school and finish is an economic imperative and creates a more skilled workforce, reduced poverty, lower spending on public assistance, and an increased tax base, Cruse said.

“There’s a huge economic return when student parents earn associate’s degrees,” Cruse said. “The return for single mothers is 12 to 1 — that has huge implications for their family’s success and their children’s success long term.”

There is a growing recognition among policymakers of the value of supporting student parents. In 2018, state Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) secured an $800,000 carve-out in the state budget to support the Family Resource Center over four years. He hopes the money will be used in part to collect data on program elements and student outcomes.

“I want this to potentially serve as a statewide model,” Nazarian said.

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