Did you know that one in five college students in the United States is a parent? They number nearly 4 million undergraduate students, yet few colleges and universities know how many parents they have on campus, or how these students are faring. Student-parents are highly motivated to attain a degree to provide a better life for themselves and their children, but they face unique barriers in accessing and completing their college education—student-parents are nearly twice as likely to leave college before graduating than students who are not parents.
As one of the first people that student-parents interact with on their educational journey, college admission counselors can play a key role in supporting the success of these students as they seek a higher degree.
By Katy Kappler, Co-Founder and CEO, InScribe, and Dr. Jonathan Huck, Research Scientist, WGU Labs
The decision to apply to college, even for older students, can be a lonely, high-stakes journey. Price tags are often shrouded in mystery. Outcomes for graduates can be vague. And confusing terms (registrar, bursar, oh my!) appear at every turn.
These challenges, however, are often mitigated at traditional universities, where students can find answers and build a sense of connection with an institution by walking its grounds, smelling its flowers, and taking lively tours. Unfortunately, these advantages are absent in the online learning space.
How, then, to foster a sense of belonging among applicants who may never set foot on a physical campus? We met this challenge through a recent pilot at Western Governors University (WGU), where we created a virtual community for prospective students to connect with peers, staff, and alumni before deciding to enroll.
Students don’t graduate for many reasons, but one critical reason, within an institution’s power to change, is that students don’t see a connection between their studies and a possible career. Way too often higher education relegates career preparation to select majors, separate classes, and special offices on campus. But breaking down these barriers helps all students succeed.
With the coronavirus pandemic raising doubts about the feasibility of in-person classes next year, a growing number of high school grads are considering taking a gap year.
But what should families know about this option? Education reporter Elissa Nadworny recently shared some important insights with National Public Radio listeners.
“Research has shown that those who do a gap year—so that’s (a) specific time away with a clear enrollment plan—they do really well when they get to college. They tend to be whiter and wealthier and have highly educated parents,” Nadworny said in a segment that aired earlier this month. “At the same time, we know that for many students, when they simply delay enrollment or they put off college to work to save money, the longer they wait, the harder it is to get a degree. And that’s especially true for low-income students.”
Colleges continued to offer online coursework this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, but one educator says the “new normal” unfairly disadvantaged her students at MiraCosta College.
The two-year school is part of the California Community College District, and sociology instructor Kat Soto-Gomez said shifting learning online – particularly during a time of economic turmoil – hastened student attrition.
Her Ed Surge essay highlights the challenges low-income students face during the coronavirus pandemic. As one student told her after falling behind on his coursework: “I didn’t realize I would be deemed an ‘essential worker’ working at The Home Depot.”
Disruptions caused by the coronavirus will likely lengthen the time students take to earn a college degree, education experts say. And the effects will be felt most acutely by low-income and first-generation students.
“This could add a year or two easily to a student’s time to degree,” Kristen Renn, an education professor at Michigan State University, told The Hechinger Report.
New research backs up what many college counselors and admission officers have witnessed firsthand: Overbearing parents can spur student distress.
According to a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, “helicopter parenting behaviors may hinder the development of self-control skills among emerging adult college students,” leading to burnout. The finding was based on a survey of 427 college students.
As opioid abuse rises to epidemic levels, a growing number of US colleges have started to provide sober living and treatment programs.
According to a recent Inside Higher Ed article, over 130 colleges and universities in the US now offer drug and alcohol recovery services for students. As recently as 2012, only 35 colleges offered such programs.
Could changing the federal financial aid structure help more student-parents earn a degree?
A recent op-ed published by the Center for American Progress argues that awarding larger Pell Grants could help more parents persist to graduation.
“These funds would not be enough to cover anywhere close to the full cost of child care—nor would they address underlying structural issues related to the lack of available spots in high-quality child care options—but they would at least recognize that parents face larger costs than nonparents, including for things that go beyond child care, such as food or clothing,” Ben Miller, vice president for postsecondary education at American Progress, notes in his column.