Students who are parents face a variety of challenges to their academic success, which make them an important population for community colleges to understand. In the latest edition of Data Notes, Achieving the Dream notes that 51 percent of ATD students (and nearly one-third of all community college students) have dependents relying on them.
These students often have considerable needs like childcare, employment, housing issues, and access to financial aid that must be met so that they are able to devote their full attention to the classroom.
The importance of addressing the unique challenges faced by this population is reinforced by the fact that the percentage of single-parent households is increasing dramatically in the US: from 20 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 2008.
At GRCC, the population of students with children is slightly smaller than the national average: according to the 2011 Community College Survey of Student Engagement only 26 percent of all GRCC students have children that live with them. This however does not mean that the impact of dependents is less dire – each one of those students noted that “caring for dependents” was a likely reason they might have to withdraw from classes or leave college entirely.
As part of GRCC’s ongoing measurement of the student experience with the CCSSE report found that 55 percent of students expressed that the college does help them with their non-academic responsibilities.
Single parents are the most at-risk when it comes to students on campus with dependents: their completion, transfer and re-enrollment rates in the third year are lower than their married counterparts or students without dependents. Of single parents, women are disproportionately represented compared to men – however they outperform their male counterparts in developmental English and Math classes.
Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count is a national non-profit organization committed to helping more community college students succeed, with a special focus on students of color and students with low-income. GRCC is one of the 150 colleges currently participating in the organization.
Source: Achieving the Dream, Data Notes, May/June 2012