Ensuring racial equity in our institutions is a core principle of my approach to unapologetic leadership, which is why it is imperative to me to eliminate barriers to access and ensuring students can succeed at our institutions. I’d like to highlight a population that I find is often overlooked, yet faces significant need. I’m talking about student parents. 

Indeed, supporting student parents is a racial equity issue, as we know students of color are more likely to be parents1. In the U.S., Black college students are more likely than any other race/ethnicity to be student parents, making up 33% of this population. 

Unfortunately, student parents find themselves with unique needs that not all colleges and universities are equipped to meet. Changes in our systems and institutions are imperative in easing the burden on student parents and eliminating the obstacles that can prevent degree attainment. For student parents, the cost of attendance and child care can pose the most significant challenge to furthering their education. But their need doesn’t stop there; what more can campus leaders and policymakers do to support students with children? 

Student parents leave with nearly twice the amount of debt as non-student parents, making affordability for this population incredibly important1. A study conducted at a community college also found that student parents who used the on-campus child care center had an on-time graduation rate of more than three times higher than student parents who did not2. Beyond affordability and child care, full support of student parents means ensuring basic needs are met, and these students are supported holistically. 

Student parents have quite the load, and balancing it all can take a toll. At your institution, are mental health resources easily accessible for student parents who may not have a traditional schedule? Do they have access to affordable housing that is suitable for families? Are mentorship and academic support readily available? The answers to these questions can make all the difference in a student parent’s pursuit of higher education and alleviate some of the burdens that student parents face. 

Additionally, colleges and universities should explore offering a Guaranteed Income Program for students, most importantly student parents. During the 2022-2023 year, Compton College implemented this program with 134 student participants who needed to be enrolled in at least three units to qualify. Every single one of these students received $500 per month for six months, using their funds to help feed their children, cover the cost of school supplies, pay for babysitters, and more. $500 may not amount to much for some, but the peace of mind it bought for these students was priceless because it meant they could stay in school and stay focused. After all, they knew their families were cared for. 

Collecting data on student parents is not common practice, so their needs are often overlooked. As we know, the number of non-traditional students has grown significantly, and our past policies and procedures no longer serve today’s students. Each population’s distinctive needs must be met with specific, intentional, and equitable solutions. College leaders, practitioners and policymakers must demonstrate creativity and support for student parents both in the classroom and through the assistance services we offer. 

To learn more about how we can support Black learners as they navigate higher education, visit: https://www.community4blacklearnerexcellence.com/publications


  1. Cruse, L. R., Holtzman, T., Gault, B., Croom, D., & Polk, P. (2019). Parents in College: By the Numbers. Institute for Women’s Policy Research. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED612580.pdf\
  2. Cruse, L. R., Gault, B., Suh, J. Y., & DeMario, M. A. (2018). Time demands of single mother college students and the role of child care in their postsecondary success. Briefing Paper, IWPR C, 468. https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/C468.pdf