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This Mother’s Day, Let’s Honor Student Parents by Supporting Their Dreams

As a working mom, I feel incredibly lucky to have the support I need to parent and have a job that I truly love. I have access to childcare during work hours and have the flexibility to work remotely or take a day off when I need to care for one of my kids or attend a school event. And even with all the support and flexibility – it’s still hard. Some days I feel like I’ve nailed it – but most days I feel like I’ve fallen short in some way – either at the office or home.  At the end of the day, however, I am grateful that I have such a strong support system.

For too many parents this is not the case — including for the 20 million young parents (18-34) across the country. With lower wages, stagnant employment rates, and rising costs, Millennial parents have experienced the highest poverty rates seen by any young parents in the past 25 years. In fact, 20% of Millennial parents are currently living in poverty.

And many of them are counting on college to help: more than 1-in-5 of today’s college students are also parents.  

Who are student parents? In addition to parenting and attending classes, 40% of them are also working full-time jobs. They are also high performers. In fact, research from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research shows that student parents earn better grades than other student groups. One-third of student parents have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, compared with 31 percent of independent non-parents and 26 percent of dependent students.

I know how hard it is to juggle work and parenting – I can only imagine how challenging it must be to add college to that mix.  It’s no surprise that institutions that provide childcare and other types of support make a world of difference for them and their families.  But for too many students, finding that type of support is way too hard – or not available at all.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Chea, a first-generation college student at California State University, Los Angeles, who returned to school after becoming a wife and mother – and found a system that was simply not built to support modern-day students like she is.

Chea talks about how challenging it was to figure out what programs existed to help her – it was a bit of a mystery.  “On top of my academic workload as a student parent and personal responsibilities, I had to advocate for myself to find programs that would ensure I had access to financial literacy and child care assistance. These programs were not immediately made available to me but rather I had to find myself,” said Chea.

Ultimately, Chea found what she needed – and is managing not only to survive but thrive.  I met her the night before her finals and you could tell she was going to crush them.

But it shouldn’t be that hard for student parents to get connected to the supports they need. And childcare and other support resources should be on every campus across the country – not just a handful. That’s why programs like CCAMPIS are so important.  

CCAMPIS (Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program) is a federal program that provides campus-based child care services, particularly for low-income students. In 2017, the Trump budget and the House Appropriations Committee attempted to defund this program, but a student-powered campaign led by Young Invincibles helped not only to protect existing funding levels — but also increase its funding by over 200 percent!

But there are also improvements that can be made to the program itself — increasing authorized funding levels so that more college students have access to free or low-cost on-site child care, encouraging institutions to share information about poverty reduction programs with their students, and reporting on best practices and proof points.

We are excited that members in the House and Senate have introduced legislation to make important updates to the CCAMPIS program. We look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure that student parents have access to affordable high-quality child care.

Every mother deserves to be able to take care of her family and herself – and that means having the resources and support to start and complete higher education.

So this Mother’s’ Day – a special shout out to the moms that are really juggling it all – student parents like Chea. And then let’s celebrate again when she gets her finals back, sees her hard work continue to pay off, and continues her journey.