Representing one in five college students, student parents graduate with
higher average debt
than students without children.
A recent survey from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that nearly one in four student parents said it was difficult to provide for their families due to student loan debt. As more than half of student parents are students of color – including the one-third of all Black students who are also parents – high student debt among parenting students is a racial equity issue.
That’s why last month’s announcement from the Biden Administration that it would be canceling up to $20,000 in student loan debt was welcome news. While many experts agree that this relief will change many lives, The Hope Center, The Education Trust and other partners have noted, solving the underlying college affordability crisis requires more action, especially for student parents.
Two new reports released in the last month shed new light on the catch-22 facing student parents - a college degree is essential for securing higher earnings to support their families, but the costs of attending college put this future out of reach for many students with children.
One report, an analysis released by The Education Trust and Generation Hope, outlined the affordability issues facing student parents:
Driven and determined to succeed for themselves and their families, student parents sit at the center of many systemic issues that, if addressed, would enable better futures for all learners.
This research underscores how much we ask of student parents in order for them to persist and complete their studies. As the report authors note, “Student parents are working hard and making sacrifices to secure a better future for themselves and their children. Surely, we can make it easier for them to succeed.”
In that spirit, the report includes useful recommendations for federal and state policymakers – such as requiring data collection on parenting status and increasing funding for programs that help students pay for tuition and child care – as well as for institution leaders, including efforts to help student parents access child care subsidies and giving student parents priority enrollment in classes to ease scheduling conflicts.
“It truly felt like I had won the lottery,” Isabel, a student parent in Texas told Austin’s KUT, about securing financial assistance for her daughter’s child care. A second report released earlier this month with survey findings from Generation Hope indicates that Isabel isn’t exaggerating: average annual earnings for teen parents more than doubled after earning a college degree.
Driven and determined to succeed for themselves and their families, student parents sit at the center of many systemic issues that, if addressed, would enable better futures for all learners. Many student parents will see debt relief as a result of last month’s announcement, and for some, this can mean the difference between graduating or receiving additional financial aid. But to support the success of current and future student parents, higher education must address tuition affordability and our systems more broadly must also transform the affordability of high-quality child care.