A lack of on-campus childcare also impacts some communities more than others. Nearly 42% of student parents attend community colleges, and large percentages of minority students have kids at home. About a third of Black students, over a fourth of Native American students and about a fifth of Latinx students are parents. The numbers are even higher for women of color. Student parents make up 40% of Black women, 36% of Native American women and 26% of Latinas attending college.
According to Lindsey Reichlin Cruse, study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, student parents of color struggle financially, as well, with Black parents having “by far” the highest levels of student debt compared to other parents. This means policies that impact student parents are also about diversity and inclusion at their core.
“All of this is going to reverberate in communities around the country, and [that] may look different for student parents of color and Black student parents,” she said. Supporting student parents “has implications for achieving racial equity goals in higher education more broadly.”
While federal legislation has a role to play, Reichlin Cruse suggested strategies to help student parents at the campus level. The first was data collection. Campuses don’t typically know how many student parents they’re serving or track student parents’ academic trajectories, she said. She also advised that campuses have clear, well-advertised policies for student parents, like where and when to breastfeed and how to make up absences when their kids are sick.
Student parents often feel “a sense of invisibility” on campus, she said, and these steps can help schools start to “integrate and acknowledge that student parents are there, they’re a part of the fabric of the campus.”