More than 5.4 million college students in the United States have children, representing nearly a quarter of undergraduate students and nearly a third of graduate students. But despite this group’s large size, an absence of data about their characteristics, experiences, and outcomes at the student level renders them nearly invisible.
In 2021, Oregon and Illinois passed legislation requesting that colleges collect data on students’ parenting status. Other states and college systems have followed suit, either through legislative or administrative action. Discussions have also begun about the possibility of collecting parenting status through the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
It is difficult to prioritize a population we cannot see. The slogan for the campaign for the Oregon student-parent data collection bill was, “When you are invisible, so are your problems.”
The Data-to-Action Campaign for Parenting Students aims to inform, guide, and steward the implementation of parenting status data collection. We hope to identify standards of practice and strategies to overcome challenges as the process is field tested. These insights can inform data collection strategies across other colleges, college systems, and states, as well as in federal policymaking.
Why does student-parent data collection matter?
Collecting data on college students' parenting status at the student-record level will help student parents in multiple ways. Insights from data can help make the case for more child care, expanded family housing, or new instructional policies. Additionally, without these data, it is difficult to track student outcomes, such as retention and degree attainment rates. If colleges had better data and effectively used the new insights, they could tailor critical services and institutional policies to help student parents and single mother students succeed in their education goals. Colleges could justify additional attention to this group if they were made more visible through data.
Where did this effort come from?
This project is part of the Student-Parent Action through Research Knowledge (SPARK) Collaborative that grew from the Student-Parent Families at the Center project. We provide technical assistance to stakeholders from colleges, college systems, states, and the federal government on student-parent data issues. We are convening a College Community of Practice composed of institutions that have an annual request or mandate to collect student-parent data at the student-record level from any higher administrative level, including the state government or a college system. More information about this community of practice can be found under the College Community of Practice section of this page. Our work is informed by a policy scan that summarizes the state of student-parent data collection as of early 2023. See the Publications section for insights and updates.
Contact us at [email protected].
The Data-to Action Campaign is generously supported by ECMC Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation. We are grateful to them and other funders who make it possible for Urban to advance our mission.