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. For these students, pursuing their education goals often requires interacting with many different policy systems and supports. We have mapped 11 large policy systems that student parents concurrently navigate, including social safety net programs, early childhood education and care, and the public school system. In contrast, students who are not parenting and otherwise fit a “traditional” college profile primarily interact with one policy system, which we have termed “college access and success policies” and includes policies and practices that help students enter and persist in college.
Each of these large system areas contains numerous programs, many of which we have described in detail in a framework and fact sheet series on the Student-Parent Families at the Center webpage. And few, if any, of these systems or programs are designed with parenting students in mind. The complexity of the framework emphasizes the importance of coordinating policy and practice, which allows student parents sufficient bandwidth and support to achieve their education and life goals.
In collaboration with a cross-sectoral Leadership Council, we developed a roadmap of opportunities to improve practice, policy, research, and investment. We believe this expansive roadmap can provide a vision for stakeholders interested in supporting parents pursuing postsecondary pathways and their families.