By Adelia Humme
These students may have additional commitments beyond their careers. Texas State University professor Jovita M. Ross-Gordon notes that “a key characteristic distinguishing re-entry adults from other college students is the high likelihood that they are juggling other life roles while attending school, including those of worker, spouse or partner, parent, caregiver, and community member.”
The potential conflict between these multiple roles means that these students tend to “look for degree and certificate programs that provide them flexibility in time and locations for both course completion and for access to key student services.”
In many ways, however, education institutions are not structured to best serve non-traditional students. Among the concerns: on-campus childcare. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that the number of students who are also parents is on the rise, totaling 4.8 million in 2012.
Unfortunately, the availability of campus childcare centers is seeing an opposite trend, with only 49% of four-year public colleges offering them in 2015. At community colleges, that number was 44%, and both statistics had fallen from more than 50% just over a decade earlier.
The impact can be devastating for student-parents. Monroe Community College in New York analyzed data on its students who were parenting one or more children under the age of six. Student parents who used the campus’s childcare facility had a higher retention rate—returning for following semesters—than those who didn’t.