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It's Time to Strengthen Support for Student-Parents

Episode 101

April 26, 2022 40 minutes


David Croom from Ascend at the Aspen Institute joins EAB’s Meacie Fairfax to dispel myths around today’s student-parents who comprise more than 20% of total undergraduate enrollment. Student-parents tend to have higher GPAs than their childless peers despite having 50% less time on average, to devote to their academics.

David shares compelling success stories and recommendations on creative ways for institutions to partner with local businesses and community leaders to offer more support and wraparound services to help student-parents succeed.



0:00:12.0 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome to office hours with EAB. Today, we’re focused on an overlooked segment of undergraduate students, those who are already parents, universities aren’t typically set up to serve non-traditional students like these, but the reality is they represent a fragile segment of our society that is desperately working to improve their circumstances, and they could use a hand up from colleges and universities, David Croom from the Ascend Program at the Aspen Institute, joins EAB’s Meacie Fairfax to talk about changes that are urgently needed on college campuses to better support student caregivers, so give these folks a listen and enjoy.

0:01:00.9 Meacie Fairfax: Hello and welcome to office hours with EAB. My name is Meacie Fairfax and you probably are quite familiar with me. I’m thrilled to have on the line with us today, David Croom, he’s the associate director for post-secondary success for parents, the Ascend program at the Aspen Institute. Now, thank you for joining us today, David, would you please just tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Ascend?

0:01:24.7 David Croom: Yes, Meacie. Thanks again for having me on this podcast. I think first thing I wanna say, just to give our listeners some context is that I’m the son of a student parent, so this work is something that is personal to me. It matters a lot. I remember growing up in the back of the classrooms… My mom, when she was getting her associate’s and bachelor’s degree at FIU and Miami Dade College, in South Florida where I was raised. So that’s one thing, but in my professional context, I’m the… As you just mentioned, the associate director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, and the work that I lead, I have been leading for the last four years has been focused on post-secondary students who are parents, so since joining Ascend, I’ve had the privilege of helping build… I guess a movement or a field focused on students who are parents. We have various projects engaging different stakeholders, including colleges, state and federal policy makers, and importantly student parents themselves, so I’m happy to be here today and tell you more about student work that we’re doing and some of the trends that I’m seeing among our student parent work and how it connects to the broader post-secondary field.

0:02:30.8 MF: Thank you for that, David. And I’m so excited to dive into this conversation. One thing we consistently hear from our campus partners is that need to have and to hear expertise from us and others about ways to support all identities and all the students, but as you know, still today, many leaders aren’t aware of who their students actually are, who is showing up and who needs the support. So today, as you’ve heard, we’re going to discuss identity and needs of student parents. Now, much has been said in the news about the struggles of our caregiving and our parent employees that they’re experiencing in terms of balancing life and work? Now, we know approximately 73% of US employees are caregivers and they spend an average of 24 hours a week on these caregiving responsibilities, this is according to Harvard’s Business School Survey of US employees on caregiving report. Now, in response, employers are making accommodations and they’re doing so actively, actively making their businesses, companies and institutions more inclusive, which is great, this is all great news, but student parents don’t just work alongside us, there are many who are also going to college right… And now more frequently and in jobs that are… Offer limited flexibility, so campus leaders need more conversation, guidance and recommendations around parents who are students themselves, and they need to understand the accommodations that the students… That those schools need to meet.

0:03:55.4 MF: So David, I would just love for you to kind of give us a lay of the land. How many parents students are there. Where are they? What do we know about them?

0:04:05.1 DC: Yeah, happy to, so student parents. And this is using NIPSA’s data from 2016. Unfortunately, the federal government’s a little delayed when it comes to data, but we know that they’re somewhat about 20-22% of the total undergraduate population, and look looking in this data, I’m gonna be referencing focuses on those in baccalaureate and associates… Oh, bachelor’s and associates degree pathways.

0:04:29.5 MF: Okay.

0:04:29.9 DC: So about 20-22% of the total population, one in five is that we usually say about four million students or student parents, but I think importantly, there’s a lot of really important intersectionality that occurs among this population, we know that student parents are majority first generation students. We know that they’re majority women of color. For example, if you look at all black women enrolled in these associates and bachelor’s degree pathways, 40% of them are mothers, and so that’s a significant population of women of color, and that’s just breaking down by black women, native women and the next highest up at 36% of those women are being are parents are mothers, and so important to just state that piece, they’re also working full-time, they’re enrolled mostly part-time in their post-secondary pathways.

0:05:20.0 DC: And then importantly, I know one of the things that we’re gonna get to today in this podcast is around our community colleges and student parents are over-represented in community colleges, if you look at the pie of 100% of student parents, 42% of student parents are enrolled in public two-year institutions, so we’re talking about a population that is typically enrolled at… Very much as presence within community college contents, and we also know too that as already alluded to around employees in the US, our systems are not built with caregivers in mind. It does not work for systems, post-secondary systems, they were not built to support those who are caregiving, and that’s something that we’re really trying to address within our work here at Ascend, student parents exist in every… On every campus and in every community, and so we’re trying to make it known and trying to share this data, do some case-making, some myth-busting around this population in order to underscore the fact that if you care about these populations, you care about students of color, first generation students, adult learners, that student parents need to be on your radar.

0:06:32.6 MF: Yeah, and that’s a really good push that you put there at the end because… You know, all the ones that you just rattled off, student parents is usually the one that we hear the least about. And I’m excited to hear more about the work that you’ve been doing for the last four years to get that up. One of the things that you brought up, that was interesting to me is that you mentioned that there were majority of women of color who fell into that, and one of the interesting steps I saw and I was just curious and wanted to talk a little bit more about surprising data as well, is that some of these… Student Parents are also single as well, right? Or single parent households, so I just want to get your sense in terms of what that means differently versus student parents, and then just get a better sense of what are that additionally, the student… The campus leader should know… Or how do they get to know the student groups?

0:07:28.1 DC: Yeah, so as part of the student parents sort of context, it’s about 70-30, 80-20 in terms of women to men. So significantly more women enrolled, who are mothers as compared to fathers, and of those women, there’s a significant population who are single mothers. And so in particular, recognizing the fact that single mothers are some of the most vulnerable populations in this work, we’re really talking about individuals who are in dire need of resources, not just in financial but also non-financial resources. I think something that we… That’s surprising in the data or some trend that I think is really unique to student parents and how they, I think differentiate themselves from other adult learners of populations is, this concept of time poverty, the fact that student parents have… For the research, about half the time dedicated to academic pursuits as compared to non-parents is really, really jarring, and it’s again because of a significant number of student parents share, sorry, single mothers and single parents that exist within this work. And in this context, I think of actually, one of our parent advisors, Waukesha Wilkerson, she’s a mother of three, she lives in Inland empire in California, and she’s been fully enrolled in online pathways throughout her post-secondary journey, and she started to try to do it for-profit, didn’t really work out.

0:08:50.4 DC: And she eventually was able to enroll at Coastline Community College and get her credential there. And she recently, in which I’m really excited about completed her bachelor’s degree at Sacramento state. Which has a really great program focused on parents. And she has three kids, she’s working full-time, she’s been enrolled for the most part, a part-time, throughout her journey, which has been for several years, much beyond the four years that are typically, I guess, experienced by college students. And I’m always in awe honestly on how she even finds a the time to… [chuckle]

0:09:26.2 MF: Absolutely.

0:09:26.3 DC: To dedicate towards work and academic pursuits, because she is literally working full-time raising three two children and has all these other elements on her plate. And so I think the thing that in this world work, we wanna really make that the norm, the idea that we’re talking about individuals in general, not just in student parents, but adult learners in general, who of which college is something that is important to them, but it’s not even in the top five at the list of things that they have to do in order to be survived and to be… Sustain their family, right? So I think that’s something that we need to really think about is how to modify that sort of sentiment around college being the primary and ensuring that colleges are supporting student parents to be fully enrolled or fully subscribed.

0:10:09.3 DC: Recognizing the fact that they have so many other things on their plate. I think other things, I think are really interesting in terms of surprising things even… And I just mentioned Waukesha, but Waukesha, I think her… She told me her GPA was in a high threes, it was… She had a great GPA. And that’s actually not uncommon for student parents, student parents actually have higher GPAs than their childless peers. So I think that’s the thing that’s really interesting as much as we talk about some of the barriers that they face, the fact that they’re dealing with childcare and childcare exceeds the cost of public in-state tuition for higher education in over 40 states, some childcare are very expensive provision.

0:10:52.5 MF: That’s right.

0:10:53.4 DC: We know that student parents are also dealing with mental health sort of concerns. We did some research with a Jet foundation like last year, and what it showed was that parenting students faced extreme stress indicators, including high rates of basic needs insecurity, higher rates of trauma, and much less of a sense of belonging on campus as compared to their non-parent peers. And then the thing that was really great about this too, in terms of the work, was something that… A trend that we thought, but it kind of came out of the work, was the fact that we saw that the younger parenting students actually are struggling more… Significantly more than older. So there seems to be even just more of a pronounced stigma for teenage parents as compared to an older student parent. And so, just some of those elements like that, that we see in the data that I think are really interesting, to sort of think about as colleges are building supports for student parents, building robust wraparound supports, connection to the community partners who can provide those supports. So yeah, I think time, poverty, the mental health pieces, but then also from the asset framing, the fact that even considering all those barriers, they still have higher GPAs than their childless peers, just showcases the fact that this is such a motivated population to succeed because of their families.

0:12:11.6 MF: Absolutely, and what struck me and I actually was… Was going to, you brought up stigma. And I think that’s an interesting and tough piece as well, because as we know that in our conversations that we’ve had outside of this podcast, and then just across campus leaders, we know that there are… They noted, and you noted that this is a population that is wanting to be served, right? And we know that campus leaders are concerned about increasing current and future enrollments, it seems like there’s a solution here, especially if we know that many of these students, parents are having these higher GPAs, it just sounds like they’re inspired not to do well for them just for themselves, but also for their children and their families. What’s your take in terms of what college Leaders could be doing as of thinking about the enrollment? Every college spring there’s adult learners. Others who might have either stepped out or maybe had not come to their campus at all yet?

0:13:05.6 DC: Yeah, I would say that… And maybe this is because of the work I do, but I believe that this is a win-win for many colleges.

0:13:14.3 MF: Absolutely.

0:13:15.1 DC: We know that enrolment has continued to decline, right? And that shock was fairly unique. So typically an economic shocks happen college enrollment increases. But this shock with COVID was such a unique sort of economic shock that we’ve seen enrollment decline. And I pause it that, and there’s some data supporting that parenting sort of element has been challenging for many. And that’s partly why we’re seeing much of the… I’m not gonna flip it all of the enrollment decline on parents alone, but I think that they’re definitely driving one of the population subpopulations driving that enrollment decline. And this is supported by some data that came out or some research that came out in early 2021. It was some Gallup data funded by Lumina Foundation, which looked at caregivers.

0:14:03.7 DC: So it looked at both of those who are caring for younger children, but also for doing elder care. And what they saw with that, college students who provide care to adults or children were far more likely than those who are not parents or caregivers. So say they have considered stopping taking courses in a six-month period, which looked at Fall of 2020, and that was for 40… 44% of that population were considering stopping out as compared to 31% of the non-caregiver population. And the thing that I thought was so interesting about that research was that the significant relationship between caregiving and parental responsibilities in consideration of pulling out of those courses persistent even after controlling for race, program level, Age, gender, marital status, income.

0:14:49.8 DC: So it was really that caregiving elements that made it where these individuals wanted to stop out of their pathway. And so that… Looking in that data and thinking through, again, what I hear anecdotally from our parents in terms of how challenging covid has been and continues to be, right? It’s not over. [chuckle] In terms of technology challenges are… I think there’s also assumptions made that virtual learning is something that all parents want. In the case of Waukesha, she didn’t want that. And then actually went through her entire pathway through virtual education. But in the case of Ariel, one of our student fathers, he has made it very clear to me that he needs the on-campus, he needs that experience of being in person, that’s the way that he learns. He needs to be able to see it, to touch it, to experience it in order for him to feel fully engaged. And he’s suffering do so because he’s a father of two children. And so I think that we also don’t wanna make assumptions that just online education is what parents need, it’s basically helping them, giving them a different diverse experience of modes that they believe are best suited for them, and letting them choose what modes, I think would work well for them. But digressing from that, I think in terms of your question, I think this is a room for enrollment, I think that this is a win-win.

0:16:12.5 DC: I think we know from the research around the two-generation effects that exists, if parents are able to complete their credentials, what it means for their children. And I think that colleges should be really considering this research and sort of acknowledgement that Covid has impacted not just all populations, but student parents in particular, and really build those sorts of supports such as providing resources and financial and non-financial resources to really bring those individuals back to the table and hopefully get them through their pathway.

0:16:45.9 MF: And one of the things that you noted that I just wanted to double down a little bit. You talked about the crease propensity for many of these students as well to be swayed by for-profit institutions. I think part of that is because the way of their messaging and what they’re actually… The way that they are attracting their students and what they’re… I’m sure many of us have seen that commercial where it’s like, “35 million Americans have stepped out, get it America.” Right? And you see him at his laptop doing that. But like you said, that doesn’t work for all of these students. But there are some lessons learned in terms of what they have effectively done and what these campuses have effectively done to think about these those resources. Because even as you say that, and we talk about the intersectionality that many of these students-parents have, we also realize that there’s more students than ever who have these needs. So I want to kind of jump forward a little bit to think about, how should community colleges… How should institutions think about supporting their student-parents? What does that really look like? Especially beyond… And I’ll push you a little bit here.

0:17:47.2 MF: We know childcare, we know we definitely need childcare. We know it has never filled the gap, and we know that most institutions, when they do have some kind of federal childcare facility or another, it may just be able to have a handful of student-parents children who can attend maybe 30 to 50 slots. So, I’m just really, really curious, and this is definitely coming from our membership as well. What can we do? How can we support them?

0:18:15.5 DC: Yeah, I think that the needs of student-parents, although unique because they have children, are not so varied, and are so different that they differ I think extremely from what adult learners need in general. Right?

0:18:30.0 MF: Mm-hmm.

0:18:31.1 DC: I think just to simplify it in to things that I believe… Into buckets that I believe are important. First of is data, right? So something that I wanna make clear is that we need more data around parenting status. Achieving the Dream, which as you know community college advocacy group, I’m sure many of your audience knows, they did an internal survey of their community colleges that’s a couple of years ago, and they found that only about a quarter of them were tracking parental status, right? And that’s something that we really wanna make progress on. We continue to underscore the fact that parenting status, being a parent does have impact on one’s ability to complete their full secondary credential. And so it should be tracked, just like income, race, gender, first generation status, all of these other elements that we know are variables that we know have impact, and we wanna track and know that information because we wanna best target resources to those populations. We believe strongly that parents should also be within those conversations. And I think that that conversation also extends to the larger sort of movement in the last decade or plus around basic needs insecurity, right?

0:19:42.9 DC: And the fact that… Again, another point of intersectionality is fact that… And this is using Hope Center data that parenting students experience food and housing insecurity at much higher rates than non-parenting students, and so again, kind of underscoring the intersectionality of this population. So with that in mind, data… And we need to have data not just around parenting status, but also ensuring that we’re knowing… We’re Looking at those momentum statistics that we see are for assistance, retention, completion, how that’s impacted. And then, of course, money, this is not new, I think my old supervisor used to tell me that there are not a lot of new sort of ideas in full secondary and higher education, and I agree with her on that because what we do know is that if we target finance, money, emergency aid, scholarship to these individuals that they use it in a very rational thoughtful way, and it keeps them enrolled in their pathway. And so I think any way that we can continue targeting resources, scholarships, emergency aid… But then also too, there’s examples of the state level where in California, for example, a couple of years ago, they created a specific Cal Grant, which is their state knee-based aid program for students with dependents. And so students with dependents qualify for slightly more Cal Grant as compared to those who don’t, and so those are sort of resources that we wanna see. We wanna see student parents have access to more money.

0:21:10.9 DC: And then importantly… So data, money and then case management advising. We know that if a person has access to a human to engage with, to help them make their way through these really complicated systems, like accessing… Or even as simple as tutoring take-up or advising, but then also more complicated in terms of accessing wrap-around supports, like Snap and TANF and child care subsidies that states may offer. We know that the parents are enrolled in those systems, and they need to… These systems are very complicated, they might have different eligibility requirements, it’s a really challenging… It’s unfortunately very challenging to be a person experiencing low income in this country, right?

0:21:58.1 MF: That’s right.

0:21:58.2 DC: And so… And so we want to see systems like that that are providing robust case management and advising to student parents to help them access these key resources. And so we have… Some of the great examples of this work and out in LA, in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Valley College has a Family Resource Center that’s been doing this work for the last 20 plus years. And the great part of the interesting thing about them is they don’t actually even offer childcare at that site, what they offer is… They themselves don’t offer it, it’s offered by another group in the campus. Well, what they offer is community, space, access to mental health supports, access to advising, they offer all those additional sort of supports that student parents need in order to feel a sense of belonging, and it helps them get through their programs.

0:22:50.3 DC: We’ve also seen some really great work happen here on the East Coast, CUNY, at the City University of New York. They’re known for their Fatherhood Academy which is an amazing program at three community colleges in the CUNY system where they literally are providing space again, for fathers to come, get advising, build community, that social capital element is something that’s really important, again for parents to feel a sense of belonging within institutions. And so those two examples that I share with you don’t even offer childcare as a potential element, there are more than… And mind you, those systems, LAVC and CUNY do offer childcare in other ways, they have childcare centers within their institutions. But the programs that I’ve mentioned are not childcare centered, they’re actually centered on all the other sort of supports that student parents need to be in these pathways. And so… I think there’s… Yeah, it’s more than just childcare, I would say, but a childcare, I should also not discount is a very important provision within this work too.

0:23:52.1 MF: Yeah, and I think that’s fair to say too, because I feel like a lot of folks think the way to start this work is, okay, they have children, let’s provide childcare. [laughter] But that’s part of it, but that sounds like the larger is about the data, the statistics, making sure you have the money, making sure that you can provide them for those basic needs, and that makes a lot of sense. I… As you were thinking through… When you were providing your examples, it made me think of… And it’s actually, it would just be a natural expansion of some of the programs that many community colleges and then just some universities are starting to do. What came to my mind was thinking about Nova, ’cause Nova has always had… Thinking about the kind of one-stop shop and getting in there, so there were the social services benefits that many of our students needed and helping them through that process, but it should not stop there. And so as our colleagues are thinking more and more about how to do this work, I love what you shared there, tracking that data, making sure that the housing and food insecurity, making sure that you have something to fill those gaps, addressing the resource concerns are huge. But one thing we haven’t talked about, and you said in your opening and it’s so vital to this work, you talked about the voices, learning from and hearing from student parents.

0:25:04.3 MF: I’m gonna do a plug because I had the chance to listen to a number of The One in Five podcasts, they produce 15 episodes over 2021. I’ve only gone through three of them and I’ve had goosebumps and just emotional in many ways, ’cause you just realize, you can hear their struggle, you can hear the tough choices that many of these student parents have to meet or have to… What they have to go through. And so I just wanted to hear from you, you talked about a couple there, you talked about Ariel, you talked about… And I don’t wanna butcher her name and River…

0:25:37.1 DC: Waukecha, Waukecha.

0:25:37.3 MF: Waukecha.

0:25:39.1 DC: Yes.

0:25:39.2 MF: But I would love to hear more about what you’ve learned and heard from a lot of your student parents, and then even champions, from what I understand you might have advisors as well at this work.

0:25:49.1 DC: Yeah, no thanks for asking.

0:25:50.2 MF: Okay. [laughter]

0:25:52.2 DC: And thank you for the plug, and then The One in Five podcast, excellent and really amazing stories that we’ve help cultivate through that. But our parent advisors are really the heart of this work, so something that’s a key tenet of our work here at Ascend… And I should actually maybe even just quickly mention what Ascend is… Feel like, what is that? [laughter] Ascend is a program, a policy program at the Aspen Institute, we consider ourselves to be a catalyst and convener for systems, policy and social impact leaders who are working to create a society where every family passes a legacy of prosperity and well-being from one generation to the next. So our focus is really on family, and so this work that I do here through the post-secondary Successful Parents Initiatives is a fairly unique sort of opportunity to really see and cultivate this field of post-secondary around parenting. And so…

0:26:42.9 DC: Something that’s key to our work here at Aspen and one of our tenets is around engaging parent and family voice. And so as part of this work that I do, we’ve been really lucky to have two cohorts of parent advisors, and we’re actually in the midst of finding our third, and those parent advisors are student parents who are at various stages of their post-secondary journeys. Some have stopped out and re-engaged, some we’ve had some major wins recently where some have completed their post-secondary credentials. And really what they do is advise our efforts and make sure that we’re doing work that’s rooted in their lived experience. But then also they act as external advocates and have spoken at a number of different forums on behalf of student-parents, just sharing their stories and their narratives, but also being very solutions-oriented.

0:27:30.1 DC: And so something that we did as part of our second cohort of the parent advisors was a participatory grant making fund. So we actually had them work with us to build, we call the Parent Power Solutions Fund, and they gave money to six non-profit organizations focused on student parent success as well as imbuing parent voice into their models. And so, we have, as I mentioned, Waukecha and Ariel who are our two of the 11 that we’ve had in our second cohort. But I think just one thing I wanna mention around parent voice in to solutions, I wanna just call out one of the solutions fund winners, which has Raise the Barr. It’s an organization based in Minneapolis and LA, helping do scholarship emergency aid and other supports for single parents within those two areas. And…

0:28:19.2 MF: You said they were the winner this year?

0:28:21.3 DC: They’re one of the winners, one of the six winners of the Parent Power Solutions Fund, the participatory grant making funds.

0:28:26.7 MF: Congratulations.


0:28:30.1 DC: The work has actually just ended recently because the grants were pretty short. But the thing that they did, which I thought was really unique, and what we try to foster was they used the resources to bring two of the parents they’ve served in this work onto their board. So now they have boards seats specifically for parent folks, parent advisors, and they really engage those parents’ advisors since they know the programming very well from the lens of receiving the resources as they’ve used… They’ve engaged with them and utilized their voices in improving the resources and actually incorporating even more resources for parents that are… For student parents who are getting resources, money, non-financial resource as well from Raise the Barr.

0:29:16.8 DC: And so I think that’s just one example of where we have been fostering and wanna continue to foster in this work, the idea that student parents, they’re not your traditional student coming straight from high school who’s trying to find themselves, they’re raising children. They’re very… They have a lot on their plate, they’re very rational humans and they have ideas and they have solutions that we need to tap into, if we really want to ensure that this work has legs and that it’s gonna be durable. And so I think that’s something that I wanted to just call out and explain, ’cause I think it’s unusual for colleges to think about students voices in that way and really developing and codifying solutions, but we’ve had a lot of great success here at Ascend in doing so.

0:29:56.4 MF: Yeah. And actually that makes me think of even just an additional recommendation for folks who may be listening, because a lot of times we end up having these kind of advisory councils where students there may be one or two student leaders who might be part of that, and this is just another opportunity for folks who are on… Our listeners are on the line who are thinking about, “Well, how do you determine who that student is that might be sitting on that council or that board and providing some insight in terms of supports that students may need? What is that diverse identity? What are the intersections of identities that might match up with the students who are increasingly looking to serve that could be a student parent?” So that’s definitely one to think about as well.

0:30:35.1 DC: Definitely, definitely.

0:30:36.3 MF: And then one thing I wanted to circle back around on, we have commonly talked about on this podcast about ripple, about the… We’ve called it the pandemic… Excuse me. The pandemic ripple effects. And this is about how the work we do on behalf of our students will further benefit our community and our society as a whole. Now, along those lines, you talked about student parents being, in helping to stop the inter-generational poverty, and you talked about the two-gen approach model. Now, that’s a bold statement. And I know that they’re… But at the same time I hear about the… I hear about the supports and the level of supports that folks are providing that I honestly can back this up, but I would love for you to share a little bit more about how you’re talking about that and seeing that change of… And stopping, quite honestly, eliminating inter-generational poverty through these types of programs.

0:31:30.2 DC: Yeah. So I think the first thing to state is we know that college degrees will ensure in the cases of parents or just adults in general, will probably double their lifetime income, so that’s an important thing to note, if they’re successful and able to get that credential. We also note in some of the two-gen interaction effects, excuse me, in that if a parent’s income increases by $3000, that there is an effect on their child’s future earnings. So $3000 increase leads to a 17% increase in the child’s future earnings. And so that’s just an example of a two-gen effect that we see in this work, and that I think clearly builds the apparatus or structure as to why we care about this.

0:32:16.7 DC: We know that, and maybe see even a post-secondary credential as being a major vehicle for parents to quickly endurably access the sustaining, family sustaining wages that they need in order to be successful to reach their dreams. So something that we talk a lot about is our work is not just focused on trying to get parents from point A to B, but it’s actually about meeting parents with their dream. That’s actually a line from one of our parent advisors, Janine, that it’s really important to us that we’re not doing this work in a transactional way, we really think about, how to imbue parent voice into this work, how to engage with their solutions in order to ensure that this work is durable and will be lasting, and not just for the colleges, but also for the parents themselves and for their families.

0:33:09.3 DC: And I think that, again, ties back into my story, the reason why I do this work is because I grew up in the back of the classroom, my mother and I saw a post-secondary as being sort of her way to ensure that she was able to raise me and my dad was also in a two-parent household as well so my dad was also very supportive of her in that journey. And so I think that’s just kind of speaking against the fact that this work really is impactful and can be impactful for multiple generations.

0:33:38.5 MF: Absolutely. Well, I do wanna ask, and we touched on it a little bit, any advice or recommendations for institutions, we’re talking about community colleges here that are resource constrained, any creative solutions in terms of even maybe it’s just getting started with the work, or maybe if there’s different levels if you wanna share it or just different ways to think about just how to improve today and some long-term goals I can think of as well.

0:34:09.0 DC: Yeah, that’s a great question. Actually, funny enough, just a week ago or so, I was on a call with a historically black college president whose college took part in some of the work that we did, Edison focused on trying to get more colleges to build and sustain student parent practices within their institutions. And something that she shared with me was that when they saw the numbers, they were overwhelmed, they had significantly more student parents within their institution than they expected, but because they’re resource constrained, they were like, we gave… It was a self-directed sort of project because of COVID, so we really would have liked to have more resources in that work, but they were like, “Okay, this is something we see as valuable, but we’re not gonna be able to do this right now because we have so much more on our plate.” And I think that that’s important to know like childcare, for example, is a very expensive provision to offer from anyone, including a college, and so I think one thing that we’ve been seeing more in the work are the sort of community-based solution, so I would say that in this work, I don’t feel that colleges alone need to be the only stakeholder offering these sorts of robust wrap-around support to their students, to student parents in particular, we know, especially for smaller colleges, that they’re gonna have to engage with the community.

0:35:37.8 DC: Something that we’ve seen at a community college in Texas, then this was occurring prior to COVID. So one thing that we saw was the fact that they recognize that their student parents really need a drop-in care, but they really weren’t in a place to offer that sort of care, but they were able to partner with their local why and what they did was create… So basically just offer a space within their institution for the why to come in for free and offer drop-in childcare to those parents that needed it, and so those sorts of creative solutions are things that we really see value in and hope that colleges can think about ways to engage some of the local providers of childcare, other wrap-around supports that could be, and also including state agencies too, you see some really beneficial work happening within state context, and I think that they can be also in local context too, and they can also be important stakeholders beyond the sort of other local non-profits or community-based agencies or organizations doing this work.

0:36:45.3 MF: Yeah, and I think that’s a key part to say that this work should be done in tandem with not only the student parents who should be guiding us in terms of the needs that they need, but also connecting with their communities and all those services, those partnerships with our students and with those communities, the social services are vital and important. Now, we’re toward the end of our time, which is sad for me, ’cause I just love listening to hearing about your work, David, but I just wanted to kick it back to you, any parting words or what you would like to leave with us, leave with our listeners today?

0:37:16.4 DC: Yeah, I think the main thing for me, again, in this work as just kind of being the student parent advocate, I am in this space, is the fact that I’m just underscoring that this is an intersectional population that I’ve just seen so much more movement, especially since the events of 2020 the racial reckoning and other sort of conversations within higher education, immediately higher education can be very cyclical.

0:37:40.3 DC: Conversations that occur but right now in this time, as with the renewed focus on students of color and low-income individuals and especially coming out of COVID, which was a massive impact on every system, but especially among colleges, is that the student bodies have changed and they have been changing in the last 20 years and I’m not sure that getting back to the normal before COVID is going to occur, there might be a new normal and that new normal as should have been even prior to COVID was the fact that there are a lot of adult learners, especially student parents within these contexts, and they’ve left your pathway is because they weren’t being served effectively, but if you wanna bring them back, if you want to increase enrollment within this, you really need to look at student parents, you need to look at the identities that they share, the work that they’re doing because they’re really amazing population.

0:38:37.1 DC: And I think that this work is extremely mission for it, colleges care about being that font for economic security, and I think that worth more to think about in terms of not just serving an adult, but serving their entire family and serving their future children and all of those elements, I think, is a really powerful sort of mission-oriented element. And so, just wanted to underscore again that student parents matters, this is a population worth investing in, and I hope that they see this sort of podcast and this opportunity as sort of a call-to-action.

0:39:12.0 MF: Absolutely, and you said it best. Those are powerful words, and I hope ones that will kind of pull our listeners into action. Thank you again, David, for joining us today. This has been a wonderful time spent with you, and thank you all again for joining Office Hours with the EAB, have a wonderful day.


0:39:34.6 S1: Thank you for listening. Please join us next week when we offer a condensed version of our annual state of the higher ED sector address and break down the five biggest threats and opportunities facing colleges today. Until then, thank you for your time.

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