Many students find it increasingly difficult to afford college education. Research shows that students with children are more at risk.
About one in five students in higher learning are parents. This is because many of them have children who need care while they study. Parenting students trying to get a college degree are doing exactly what society says they should do—improve their job prospects and support their families. For most parents, the high cost of college and high costs of childcare are major obstacles to higher education.
Education Trust West, Generation Hope and a new report have jointly analyzed college affordability for parent students in all 50 US states.
The report looks at what the authors dub the “affordability gap” to determine whether college is affordable or not in each state. This metric is the difference in college costs after scholarships, grants, and ten weeks of work at the minimum wage. The calculation does not include loans. Because the report focuses only on parenting students, childcare costs are included in college price calculations. This includes tuition and fees, housing and food, transport, and a restricted allowance for personal expenditures.
When asked via email how parenting students are managing to pay for college, Brittani Williams, Senior Policy Analyst at Education Trust and one of the report authors said, “the reality of student parents and postsecondary persistence is, they are working the outrageous hours mentioned in the report that it takes to make it work. As a student parent during my undergraduate career I did not afford myself options that would not support parenting AND postsecondary persistence and I think that is the belief of many student parents.”
According to the report, there is no state where students can combine financial aid and earnings from ten hours work to pay tuition for college or childcare at home. The research also showed that the out-of-pocket expenses of parenting students are up to five times more than those of their peers who don’t have children. This disparity is mostly due to the high price of childcare, which sometimes exceeds tuition in certain states. According to the report, student parents would have to work 52 hours per semaine to cover the cost of tuition and childcare at a four-year college.
In most cases, childcare is not even factored into a parenting student’s college expenses for financial aid purposes unless they explicitly request that it be added, something many parenting students do not know is an option. While some financial aid offices will contact students with childcare costs to inquire about them, this practice is uncommon. Further, most institutions do not have the funds to offer financial assistance to students who are parents. Parents will need to borrow more student loans to get additional financial support.
When you consider the cost of childcare center-based, some states are more expensive than others. Florida, Michigan and Washington are more affordable than Louisiana. Although, with an affordability gap of $12,587 in Florida, the state that is “most affordable” for parenting students, affordable might be a poor descriptor.
Campus childcare is an important option for parents because it allows them to have easy access. However, the report shows that campus childcare options are not growing. The Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program is a federally funded program that supports college campus childcare centers. However, it is severely underfunded. This limits the number of colleges that can offer on-campus childcare. It is evident that limited options for child care on campus and off campus contribute to the inability of parents to afford college.
The report makes recommendations to policymakers at the state- and federal levels as well as college leaders on how to increase support for parents. These recommendations at the federal level include gathering data about student parents in order to assist colleges in determining how many parenting students they have. The report advocates for increasing funding to CCAMPIS at $500 million, doubling Pell grant, and restoring credit for child tax.
The report suggests that the state expands childcare options close to college campuses. It also recommends prioritizing Child Care and Development Block Grant funds (CCDBG), which would be used for child care centers on college campus. For institutions, the recommendations include automatically including childcare in parenting students’ college costs and giving priority access to on campus childcare over staff and faculty.
Williams said that childcare costs should be included in students’ COA automatically. He also suggested that parents have priority registration to help them manage complicated schedules and ensure increased capacity at campus-based daycares.
This report has a clear conclusion. Students who are successful in getting a college degree as parents do so by overcome the odds. They deserve and need more assistance.