Study examines how universities can accommodate student parents
More than a quarter of college students have children, but institutions of higher education often function without consideration of the varied needs and competing demands of student parents.
In a study published in the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, CUNY SPH Assistant Professor Meredith Manze and three former CUNY SPH students sought to understand barriers and facilitators to academic engagement and well-being among community college student parents and to identify areas of needed support from institutions and their faculty and staff.
The team interviewed 49 student parents, faculty, and staff at six community colleges within the City University of New York and found that parents were expected to repeatedly self-advocate and request accommodations such as for extended childcare hours, food subsidies, and assignment deadlines. According to respondents, this burden was either constrained or relieved by student parents' strengths and strategies, campus structures and groups operating collectively or in silos, and the way faculty, staff, and campus programs responded to student parents' needs.
The authors recommend that faculty and staff present clear policies of what is allowable and the accommodations they can offer, without retribution or judgment; expanding on-campus, quality child care; creating a centralized structure for comprehensive benefits; and systematically capturing those who identify as student parents to help streamline such resources directly.
"Community colleges can reduce the burden on students to request accommodations by presenting clear policies, streamlining resources to student parents directly, and normalizing their use," says Manze. "This can facilitate student parent engagement and retention, while promoting social and economic equity."