Postsecondary attainment is widely recognized as key to accessing living-wage careers—in addition to fulfilling workforce demands and elevating the United States’ standing on the world stage. While much of the work to increase attainment rates has recognized the role of reengaging adults who have some college credit, but no degree or certificate, less attention has been paid to the salience of parenthood in adults’ postsecondary experiences. This report draws from Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of national postsecondary data describing first-time enrolled students with children who left college before completing a degree or certificate and a series of 11 interviews with student parents who have taken prolonged breaks from postsecondary enrollment. The report describes common challenges to persistence and college reentry faced by adult students with children, factors that allow them to go back to school, and, in student parents’ own words, tangible actions that policy and education leaders should take to better support their success.
This report was developed with support from Imaginable Futures.