By Nicole Eubanks
College is hard, and with kids it’s even harder. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., approximately one out of four undergraduate students has a child or a dependent. About half of that number include single parents. For students with families, economics and academics are challenges that can be overwhelming, especially when there are few resources, Christina Couch said in Ten Tips for Going to School as a College Student.
For single parents on a fixed or very low income, school is beyond a challenge. Many are working full-time and rely on financial aid to finish.
Deanna Smokes is balancing a full workload and school. Although she’s a single mom, she isn’t alone. “In no way, shape, or form is it easy,” says Smokes, a 24 year old single mother of two. After being asked about the struggles of life as both a college student and a parent, she said, “Of course my family will always come first, so I make time for other things.” Smokes often needs the help of a baby-sitter. There are times when she can rely on her mother or grandmother for help, but then there are other times when she doesn’t have anyone and has to miss school or work. This is when she wants to give up.
Most universities or colleges benefit students without children. If all schools offered affordable daycare, flexible scheduling, and parent support groups, the school career of a parent-student could be a lot easier. Some parents without reliable daycare are forced to drop out because they need an immediate source of income.
“It can be stressful for any single parent without a lot of family support,” says Elaine Adams, coordinator of the Eco-village program at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. “If they have a family member that can help out, that can make the difference…”
No matter what, kids still need food, clothing, and shelter. Smokes does all of this on a Dunkin Donuts salary. She admitts that she accepts the student loans offered. “That’s one of the ways I’m able to catch up, but I can’t make it last the entire semester.” She spoke about how the loans should be used for the purchase of books, and school necessities, which will or can last the entire semester if it is not being spent on diapers, milk, or catching up on the bills.
Student-parents should look toward colleges or universities that accommodate these challenges. Student-parents should seek schools with mentoring and parenting support groups. Finding schools that offer child care or are in connection with places that do is a benefit. Some schools provide counseling on how to find these resources, such as vouchers to help with cost, applications for child care subsidies, or even a financial aid portion to assist with any unexpected fees associated with caring for a child while completing a degree. It can also be good to seek schools that have higher student-parent ratios. The student-parents whom attend these colleges or universities may be able to provide prompt and accurate feedback of resources that may be valuable to another parent.
To see what services St. Petersburg College offers that may assist you, contact SPCs student support services.
Header photo from yeeworld.com