Earning a college degree has long been critical to unlocking many high-paying jobs – and, as a result, to economic mobility and security. Increasingly, however, the traditional “norm” of a college student – one who enrolls straight out of high school, receives some support from their parents, lives on campus, and does not have work or family responsibilities outside of school – does not fit the reality of much of the student population.
Today, students who are themselves parents make up a substantial percentage of those enrolled in college. Despite growing recognition that supporting parents’ ability to pursue postsecondary education is critical to both meeting the demands of the economy and bolstering the ability of low-income parents to lift their families out of poverty, it has mainly been left to institutions of higher education to meet the needs of student parents. However, state policy can be a critical driver of change and can make a tangible difference in the lives of student parents.