When the Michelson 20MM Foundation first kicked off our virtual learning series The State of Pregnant and Parenting Students in California, we sought to center student voices in our conversations, and hoped to center the student parent community as the source for solutions to the issues they face most. In our most recent installment, Student Voices Matter: A Roundtable Discussion with Student Parents, we were honored to give our virtual stage to a group of incredible student parents whose lived experience sheds light on what we can all do to better support them on their academic journeys.

Supporting Student Parents Makes Economic Sense

Theresa Anderson from the Urban Institute kicked off the event by sharing findings from research she conducted on mothers who returned to school. “More than ⅓ of all women with children enroll in school at some point…and more than half of all Black mothers in the U.S. enroll in school at some point after having kids so promoting student success is also about promoting the success of students of color,” Anderson highlighted. She went on to underscore that going back to school resulted in greater long-term economic gains for mothers as well as greater long-term educational gains for their children. Previously, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that single mothers in California who graduate with an A.A. are 39% less likely to live in poverty than a high school graduate, while those who graduate with a B.A. are 61% less likely to live in poverty than a high school graduate.

Student Parents Share Solutions and Make Recommendations

Following Anderson’s presentation, Amber Angel from ECMC Foundation moderated the panel discussion. A student parent herself, she has overcome countless higher education obstacles and is a passionate advocate for support initiatives for all underserved students. With a total of seven student parents, the discussion was divided into two mini panels, each of which highlighted the challenges faced by students, while a third solution-focused panel included recommendations from student parents to higher education leaders and policy makers for improved programs and policies that would support their success. 

Emily Elizabeth, a student parent at California State University Monterey Bay, advocated for the creation of a student parent coordinator position on college campuses to whom students can turn to for academic advising and support. Maya Valree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo reminded everyone that race plays a role in student parents’ ability to succeed; for this reason, we must center solutions through a race equity lens. Tarah Daniels from CSU Long Beach advocated for family housing, affordable childcare, extensions on financial aid, and training for professors and campus staff to better equip allies as they seek to support student parents. Bianca Estrada from CSU Monterey Bay uplifted the importance of student support groups and clubs, as well as family-friendly events to increase inclusivity and a sense of belonging for her and her family. Additionally, Priscila Amao from CSU Monterey Bay pushed for more work study opportunities and paid internships, particularly at the graduate level, to increase economic opportunities for her and her fellow student parents. Alfonso Morelos, from CSU Monterey Bay advocated for teen centers for older kids and priority registration so that student parents are able to access the classes they need to graduate. 

Amber Angel reminded us that AB 2881 (D-Berman) is currently active in the state legislature. Its goal is to grant priority registration to student parents, while also establishing a student parent webpage for every campus that is clearly visible and easily accessible from the homepage of each campus’ website. In addition, the bill requires campuses to increase awareness and inform student parents about CalFresh; the California Earned Income Tax Credit; the Young Child Tax Credit; and the California Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children through campus orientations, student portals, and basic needs centers.

Why Not?

Sade Johnson, from CSU Fresno reminded us about the “why not?” of these recommendations, simply put, she said, “Our kids are an extension of us. If you admit me and I’m a bulldog [CSU Fresno mascot] then my kid is a baby bulldog as well….you have to bring them in and incorporate that. Campuses need to leverage their money…and make my kid feel like this [school] is a home away from home as well”. 

If you would like to learn more, you are invited to view the recording on our YouTube channel, read the full transcript, and access additional resources mentioned during the event. 

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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