Nearly four million U.S. undergraduate college students are parents or guardians of children under the age of 18. These student parents, who already faced immense financial, child care, food, and housing insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic, are now dealing with multiple new barriers, including school closures, lay-offs, and child care disruptions, among other challenges.

In March 2020, Congress passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or CARES Act, which included $6 billion in emergency aid for college students. This aid, which can help students cover the costs of housing, food, and child care, among other expenses, is an important first step to helping student parents’ meet their immediate needs. To date, however, funds have not reached many of the students and families in need.

This briefing paper outlines how state and federal policymakers can center the immediate and longerterm needs of student parents in policy responses to the pandemic, so that they are able to safeguard their families’ economic well-being and continue along their pathway to college attainment.