Supporting Student Parents

Since the creation of our Parent and Family office at Ohio State in 2009, we have focused primarily on the parents and families of our undergraduate students. Though our email communications and programs like Family Weekend and Sibs and Kids weekend are open to everyone, our mission has centered on our “traditionally” aged 18–22-year-old undergraduate students and their families. Obviously, this focus makes sense at Ohio State as we have 44,000+ undergraduate students on our Columbus campus, families who want to be engaged and limited office resources. We have engaged graduate and professional students in some capacity at events like Family Weekend and Sibs and Kids Day, but this has been secondary to our overall focus.

One marginalized population on which we have not focused, whose unique needs could be served by an office named “Parent and Family Relations” is our pregnant and parenting students. Our pregnant and parenting students are a population of which our office knows very little. According to 2015-2016 data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, more than one in five college students, 22 percent of all undergraduates, are parents (1). It should be noted that the largest share of student parents are enrolled in community colleges with 42 percent of all student parents at a community college. Similar shares of student parents, however, do attend private for profit and public four-year institutions (18 percent and 17 percent, respectively) (1).

As we all know, COVID-19 has provided a wide array of challenges for our students and our campus communities. The impacts of COVID-19 have been especially difficult on student parents. Seventy percent of student parents are mothers, many of whom are single mothers (2). An October 2020 Brookings article by Nicole Bateman and Martha Ross outlines the challenges faced by mothers during the pandemic. With school lockdowns impacting childcare and many jobs furloughing or laying off staff, mothers have experienced significant unemployment causing a loss of income and heightened basic needs insecurity (3). Many fathers have been impacted the same way. How can you take classes if you have to be an educator for your own child while managing the difficulties of a job market that saw many businesses closed for an extended period of time? Indirectly, some of this impact could be seen during the 2020-2021 academic year where enrollment at community colleges—where the largest share of student parents was enrolled—declined by nearly 10 percent (4). Adding to these economic impacts, student parents are also more likely than students without children to be students of color (51% vs. 46 %) (1). At a time when systemic racism was finally classified by many as a public health crisis, this has only added to the stress and strain on our parenting students. All these factors contribute to pregnant and parenting students being less likely to finish their degrees than non-parenting students.    

So, how can you even get started with these conversations? I’m by no means an expert in this area but I’ve learned a few tips along the way that can be helpful if you’re looking at how to best support pregnant and parenting students.

1. There are a lot of great websites and research articles available about pregnant and parenting students.  

  • Read about the CCAMPIS Program. What’s that? Read (3) below.  

  • White Paper by Ohio State’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy regarding Going to College with Kids

  • Institute for Women’s Policy Research Student Parent Success Initiative 

  • The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) Pregnant and Parent Students taskforce

2. Do you have any data on your pregnant and parenting students? The answer very well could be “no”. On my campus, there is not a central database so to speak of pregnant and parenting students. Many students do not wish to self-identify and may not be seeking campus resources or accommodations even if they are needed.  Therefore, determining who needs to be assisted and how can be difficult so you may need to get creative.    

3. Learn about CCAMPIS and if your campus receives grant money. In 1998, Congress authorized the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program (CCAMPIS).  CCAMPIS supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of quality licensed, nationally accredited campus or community childcare services. In 2021, the Department of Education issued grants to 327 projects, totaling over $50 million. You can find a list of all projects on-line at If your campus receives this grant money, determine where it is going and who is assisting students with securing childcare. This could be an opportunity for both data on pregnant and parenting students while identifying partnership opportunities for your office.   

4. Find partners on campus who are doing this work piecemeal and pull together a group for discussion. Who has what pieces of this? What resources are currently being provided? The list below is not exhaustive but is a good list to start (knowing each campus is a little bit different in how you are structured).

  • Faculty whose research interests align (gender equity, human or family science, social work, child development, education, just to name a few)

  • Office of Diversity and Inclusion or Multicultural Center

  • Student governing councils.  We have graduate and professional student councils who are very engaged in this conversation.

  • Title IX administrators or an Office of Institutional Equity. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy and parental status.
  • Athletics 

  • Student Advocacy Center or Dean of Students Office who may be providing student support including emergency funding and addressing food insecurity for students

  • Military and Veteran Student Services Office 

If you reach the point of establishing a working group for these concerns, you can begin to identify what the issues are. Often, this conversation focuses on childcare, but that can be too narrow of a focus in addressing campus culture and sense of belonging for pregnant and parenting students. The key is really to just get the conversation started. We’ve only recently reconstituted our pregnant and parenting student support committee at Ohio State and are meeting to determine foci for the group. Though we have much work to do, just getting the right people at the table for the conversation is a critical foundational piece in supporting our parenting students moving forward.

Ryan Lovell is the AHEPPP Board of Directors Treasurer and an Associate Dean of Students at The Ohio State University.

1. Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). 2018. Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16).

2. Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). 2018. Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16) and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Spring 2001 through Spring 2017, Fall Enrollment component.

3. Bateman, N., & Ross, M. (2020, October).  Why has COVID been especially hard for working women?. The Brookings Gender Equity Series.

4. National Student Clearinghouse, “Current Term Enrollment Estimates: Spring 2021” (Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse, 2021),.

Share this post:

Comments on "Supporting Student Parents"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment