/Student parent challenges increase as on-campus support decreases

Student parent challenges increase as on-campus support decreases

College students have to balance studying, working, and attending parties. Kendra Allison, along with other students, has another big responsibility: parenting. Allison, a native of Jackson at the age of 25, is the mother to Mariyah Scott, who is three years old. In December 2013, Allison, a semester after giving birth, received her bachelor’s in elementary education at Jackson State University. She is currently enrolled in the school’s master’s of social work program. Allison, like many student parents, faces two main issues: affordable childcare and adequate housing on campus. A survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research this year found that 33% of nearly 550 Mississippi community college students indicated that they had lost their college career due to family issues. According to Women’s Policy Research, the number of American student parents increased from 3.2million in 1995 to 4.8million in 2012. These numbers are increasing, but on-campus child-care centers are being closed. In the period 2005-2015, more states reported a decreasing rate of child care at community college campuses. Women’s Policy Research concludes that this downward trend is worrying due to the large number of students parents enrolled at community colleges. Mississippi has 43 percent of all four-year institutions of higher education that have child care centers on campus. The ranking of neighboring states is lower with Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee being among the lowest, at 21 percent, 40 percent, respectively. Louisiana’s 18 percent is a shockingly low number. Many educators agree that student parents need to have on-campus childcare in order to be successful. Dr. Latasha Hadley is the director of the LottieW. Thornton Early Child Care Center, which is located on Jackson State University’s Campus. She says, “When you don’t have services close to your school, it hampers your progress.” Parents can attend classes and have their children care on campus, which allows them to be more productive. It also gives students the opportunity to gain professional experience in early childhood education. Many of these students are assigned to the centers to earn curriculum credits or for service learning hours towards graduation. Hadley says that “Nation-wide, university-based childcare programs are closing because upper management doesn’t understand why” “We exist because they provide a service for parents for our academic programmes.” Kayenne Alves, a University of Mississippi exercise science major, interned 20 hours per week while caring for her newborn son Kealan James Russell in 2014. Alves says, “It was almost like you were working for nothing.” Alves said that she didn’t have the time to make money, so it was difficult to pay a babysitter. The Willie Price Lab School of the University of Mississippi does not offer childcare services for children under 4. Alves and other mothers also mentioned breastfeeding as a common problem. Students at Mississippi State University have organized lactation support groups. They have secured a number private lactation rooms on campus for nursing mothers. Student parents also have fewer options for housing. Two- and four-year colleges of higher education have historically provided family housing to allow parents with dependent children to complete their degrees. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, federal and state loans were granted to universities to expand the number of dormitories that housed military veterans returning home to school with their families. The University of Mississippi built the Village in 1959. It consisted of 14 buildings housing more than 100 people. Occupancy has declined over the years, as there have been more affordable housing options in Oxford. The Village had 30 beds occupied this summer. The housing units were shut down before the start the fall semester. Lionel Maten assistant vice chancellor at Ole Miss for enrollment management, housing, said, “Before our decision to discontinue the facility,” “The houses were built to last their cycles. Many of them are old.” Kayla Clark was concerned about inadequate campus housing. Clark enrolled at Delta State University, Cleveland, to complete a bachelor’s in nursing science. She traveled five hours each weekend from Pelahatchie, Rankin County, to visit her daughter Faith Daniella Clark. Clark said that Delta State still manages its family homes, but she didn’t think it was up to standard. Clark thought about moving Faith Daniella closer to school, but decided to stay at home with Clark’s grandmother and maw maw. Students must rent apartments or houses off-campus, as schools continue to close family housing and refurbish buildings for other purposes. Kayenne Alves described her education as exhausting and stressful. However, she was determined to make her son’s life easier. Alves is a 9th grade STEM teacher at Enterprise Attendance Center, Brookhaven. She tells her students that anyone can do anything. Kayla Clark recently graduated and will be taking the licensing exam to become registered nurse. At least three job offers have been made to her. Kendra Allison will be pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Allison is currently preparing to take the law school entrance test in order to realize her dream of becoming a family attorney. While student parents often attribute their success to their family and friends, there are also others who understand the difficulties of being a parent. Victoria Johnson, an adjunct professor of early literacy at Jackson State University, says that she has to be flexible with students parents. “When I see great teachers in the making, I have to do everything I can to help them achieve that balance of being parents and getting their education,” Johnson said. Johnson allowed students to bring their children along to class, in case they couldn’t find childcare during the night. Johnson says, “I have held my student’s children while they presented.” Johnson says that although it may seem like a hassle to others, to me these things are part of helping students become all they can be. To help us continue important work such as this one, you can make a recurring donation to support this work today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. 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