THE STRUGGLES SINGLE PARENTS FACE WHILE FURTHERING THEIR EDUCATION

By Daisy Sullivan

Originally published in the December 2014 issue.

Moms—they hold a special place in our heart. They are the ones who bring us life, who nurture us and protect us from the world. But being a mom isn’t easy. How does someone balance motherhood and college life? Receiving an education is one of the greatest things a person can do to better themselves, so what are we doing to help our mothers at a time where they need it the most?

The New York Times has found that the cost over a lifetime of not going on to get a four-year degree on average is nearly $500,000, but it can be extremely time consuming and stressful, so what do you do when you want to go back to school and raise a child at the same time?

Renee Jackman, Interim Director of women’s programs at Seattle Central reports that there are a total of 1372 student parents enrolled this quarter and many parents are trying juggle the weight of working, schooling and fitting in enough time with their children.

Although college attendance rates have risen from 7% to 20% over the last 20 years for single parents, their completion rates continue to stay low. 46% of single parents are more likely to leave college early opposed to 35% of students without children. One reason for this is the fact that it takes single parents longer to finish their degrees than students without children. Some may have to take breaks in their schooling for emergencies or to take more hours at work. On average it takes a low-income single parent 10 years to finish a bachelor’s degree.

But Seattle Central once had a childcare center that served the school for decades but was killed off December 15, 2011 due to an emergency situation. The school was facing 40,000 square ft. deficit after the South Annex Building, which then housed International Programs, was declared unsafe and in need of repair. The school needed a place for the 60+ staff members of International Programs and the child care center could be easily converted into a home for International Programs. It was to be replaced with a voucher program to help the families who made use of the center. The child care center only served 68 single parents at the time of closure while the International Programs served over 1,200 students.

“I think the hard part about it [the child-care center] going away was the convenience of it,” says Jackman. Convenience is a big issue for parents as they attend school. Finding a daycare center that is cost effective and close to school is a hard thing to find.

Having affordable and convenient child care is one of the many ways colleges across the country could better help their single parents, but there are other steps schools should take to ensure that their student parents continue on with higher education. Schools should offer parents orientation classes for credit which teaches helpful study skills, time management, and resources that are there to support students. Offering cohort classes for single parents would benefit single parents along with offering learning communities such as The Student Parent Club here at Central.

Now Central offers rewards such as vouchers and support for single parents, which have replaced the Childcare center. “Our idea with rewards and events is to try and touch more students than just the few who just used the center,” Jackman explained. The problem that Women’s Program Center is now facing now is the problem of figuring out exactly how to help single parents in need. To aid this, the center will be sending out surveys to all 1,372 single parents enrolled in classes asking them what would better help them reach their educational goals.

If you find yourself in need of support, not all hope is lost. Central’s childcare resources offers child care information, referrals and awards depending on financial need.

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