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Undergraduate Parents and their Needs on College Campuses

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An emerging dilemma across college campuses in the United States is the increasing demand for on campus childcare and services for adult students returning to college and the increasing numbers of students who have children. Nationally more than a quarter of college students enrolled in the U.S have children, according to the institute for Women’s Policy Research.  Between 2004 and 2012, the number of student parents increased across four-year institutions, community colleges, and for-profit institutions by considerable margins. In total an increase of 1.1 million parent-students was measured over this period.

The problem for many undergraduate parents is that demand is outstripping supply.  More than half of community colleges offered childcare in 2004, but in 2015 that number had dropped to only 44 percent. Likewise in public four-year schools, the number dropped below 50 percent. Countless undergraduate parents now struggle to balance school, work, and parenting because colleges are failing to provide the services these students need.

The lack of appropriate facilities for college students with children could disproportionately affect students on particular racial and gender lines. Nearly half of African American female undergraduate students are raising dependent children compared to 29 percent of Caucasian female undergraduate students and 25 percent of African American male undergraduates. If colleges do not have the capacity to provide childcare this could greatly hinder the ability of many African American women to obtain degrees. The expense involved with raiding a child means many undergraduate parents have to work in addition to going to class and will often depend on colleges for childcare to make their education possible.

Colleges will need to adapt to the changing nature of their student bodies. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education from 2027 to 2032 the annual high school graduation totals will each be smaller by 150,000 to 220,000 people than the ones the nation had in 2013.  The result is that fewer and fewer well-resourced students able to pay tuition are entering college directly after high school. The student body is steadily becoming older and in need of greater assistance.

A large portion of the adult student body returning to college often does so because the field in which they work has changed, usually demanding new technical skills and training. Adult students in particular need accelerated formats for educational programs. Getting these students back into the workforce or into a higher paying job as quickly as possible is critically important.  The changing nature of America’s undergraduate student body will demand greater facilities for childcare for the increasing number of undergraduate parents going to school as well as those pursing technical education. Coupling these two initiatives will help colleges adapt to the trend.

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