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by on June 5, 2013

By Betty Pearsall
Adult Learners and Students with Children KC

My recent visit to a community college in the Bronx reaffirmed my support for the premise and recommendations in the new publication, Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). I was at the campus to attend a “graduation” ceremony at the campus child care center that enrolls children of student parents attending the community college. The children were graduating from the Universal PreK program at the center and will be moving on to kindergarten in the fall. During the ceremony, three student parents spoke and all passionately confirmed that they would not have been able to attend college if child care had not been available. Each one described the support and encouragement that they and their children received from the director and staff of the child care center. At the reception after the ceremony, I met the mother and father of one of the young graduates. Both parents proudly explained to me that they were both graduating from the community college in a few days and that both were transferring to four-year colleges. The mother spoke about her intention to study forensic psychology, a subject that fascinated her, and her husband’s interest in nutrition studies. The experiences of all of these student parents demonstrate that child care services are a critical support for student parents, male and female, enabling them to enroll in college and to succeed once they are enrolled.

However as the AAUW report notes “…access to college does not guarantee success”. For example, while student parents may derive additional indirect benefits from child care services, such as opportunities to meet other student parents and support for their roles as parents, a variety of institutional supports are needed to address other factors in their lives that can become obstacles to success. The report makes recommendations to community colleges for the development of programs that address the challenges facing student mothers and also focuses on increasing opportunities for women’s participation in STEM fields of study.

These recommendations include:

  • Assign staff to work with student parents.
  • Support student parent groups.
  • Apply for federal funding from the Child Care Access Means Parents In School program to develop on-campus child care or to provide a child care subsidy program.
  • Ensure that institutional practices such as academic and career advising do not reinforce stereotypes or promote discrimination of women.
  • Use creative instructional approaches like learning communities, to support students.
  • Engage students in reviewing transfer requirements early and often in their college career.
  • Expose women in nontraditional fields to role models and mentors.

By providing opportunities and support for student parents, particularly women, the community college will address the needs and educational outcomes of children as well the parent. As noted in the Ascend at the Aspen Institute report, Two Generations, One Future, “…research demonstrates the connection between maternal education and child outcomes”.  The AAUW report confirms this two-generation approach, “When women have the resources they need to be successful, they can better contribute to the well-being of their families, their communities, and society as a whole.”

St. Rose, A. & Hill, C. (2013). Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success. Washington, D.C.: Association for American University Women

Two Generation, One Future (2012). An Ascend at the Aspen Institute Report;  retrieved from :www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/…/ascend/Ascend-Report-022012.pdf.

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