I count myself a first-generation college graduate, even though my mom, who had worked as a nurse throughout my childhood, earned her bachelor’s degree a few months before I earned mine. She had lots of support from friends and from my dad. In fact, that “first-generation” bit feels odd, even if true, because my parents were always taking courses, pursuing certification, and studying. Learning was something parents did, in my child’s view of the world.
And it wasn’t easy. We lived an hour from the closest four-year college, and several hours from any major institution. That was decades before online courses, but outreach and low-residency courses from the University of Michigan helped my mom continue working and earn her BSN. And serve on the school board. And a state education committee. And, you know, raise four kids.
Fortunately, for us, Dad could make a meal and had the flexibility to take a longer lunch with us some days. Just over 13% of undergraduates are unmarried parents, making the challenge even more formidable.
Misericordia University, in northeastern Pennsylvania, offers a dedicated space and program for single moms who want to live on campus and pursue a somewhat-traditional college education and campus experience. US News & World Report notes that the Misericordia program even makes sure moms get a break once a week.
At the other end of the continent, Nick Jenkins, an outdoors studies student at Alaska Pacific University, posted this incredible vlog about learning, mountain climbing, and the most amazing adventure of all: becoming a dad at 20. As Jenkins says, “There’s never a convenient time to have a kid, change careers, or run after a dream. But adventure isn’t about convenience.”
The “traditional” college student is less and less so. Working adults and graduate students may be even more digitally enmeshed than high school students. As you consider ways to attract, support, and retain prospects with kids, you probably will want to think about the conveniences that make the adventure a little less arduous, like on-campus child care. And mobile-friendly websites with useful information 24/7.
To serve parent-students who face steeper economic challenges than most, you’ll have to think more broadly (and deeply) about what they might need. UCLA runs a range of programs and even produces a guide for students with dependents.
This week that we celebrate moms, remember that breakfast in bed is nice—especially for moms who work and go to school!—but don’t forget the glow of success that goes with credits and degrees earned, milestones achieved. That’s the gift of a lifetime, for both parent and child